Frequently Asked Questions About Being Fine Free

What does it mean to be fine free?

It means exactly what it says: we are free of daily fines and we do not impose late charges on our own materials.* The New Lenox Public Library District Board of Trustees and staff want to ensure that everyone has access to the library's resources in as many barrier-free ways as possible. Fines also tend to penalize more vulnerable individuals or families who can't afford them. We want ALL people to be able to use our resources without money creating a barrier.

*Special collections, such as Tech2Go, may still impose daily fines.

Why have we gone fine free?

It's good for our community! Our community is stronger and healthier when people have access to programs, services, and materials they need to pursue their educational, career, family, and life goals. Libraries are a place open to anyone and everyone. We hope this will encourage prior users to come back to the library and attract new users to experience our offerings.

It’s good for our relationships. When you walk through our doors, we want to do our best to help you, not badger you about a late fee. Going fine free makes a trip to the library more pleasant for both you and our staff.

Libraries that have adopted fine-free policies found that:

  • Library card registrations increased
  • Borrowing of materials increased
  • More library items were returned
  • Students returned to the library to use homework resources
  • Staff time was redirected from fines-handling to patron-focused services

Have other libraries eliminated late fines?

Yes! In the U.S., almost 500 libraries have adopted fine free policies, and the number is growing every day. This number includes Joliet, Three Rivers, and Fountaindale public libraries, with many other local libraries considering fine free in the future.

Don't late fines encourage people to return items on time?

Late fines are not effective. Studies have shown that small fines have no impact on return rates. Once someone has a late fine, they are less likely to visit the library again. Libraries who have removed late fees report few adverse effects on material return rates. (If you want to learn about this research, we will be including a resource list on this page soon.) The public library model is based upon a trusting relationship between borrowers and a valued community resource. Library staff trusts that borrowers will return items on time, so others may use them. Other libraries have experienced an increase in return rates after the adoption of fine free policies.

Will there still be due dates?

Yes. The library still has a set time limit for materials to be borrowed and we expect items to be returned on time. Be respectful of your fellow library users who may be waiting for items to be returned. Bring back materials when they are due so that everyone has equal access to our collections.

What happens if I have outstanding fines on my account?

If you have outstanding fines accrued on your New Lenox Public Library Card account, stop in and we will help you clear them. If you have charges from lost or damaged material, please speak with us and we will work with you to find an equitable solution.

What if I borrow items from another library?

Fines are set by the lending library. If an item is borrowed from a library that still imposes fines, you will be assessed that late fine. The New Lenox Public Library is not charging late fines on most items we own or send to other libraries.

What happens if someone doesn't return their items?

Borrowing privileges at the New Lenox Public Library will be suspended once the item is 21 days overdue. Depending on the item type, patrons will be charged for the replacement cost of the item plus a processing fee 21 days after they are overdue. Patrons will be sent overdue reminders asking them to return the items once the item is late and periodically afterwards until the charge for the item occurs.

Do any items have late fees?

A few. Items like Interlibrary Loans, Tech2Go collection, and hotspots will have late fees, but books, movies, CDs and other items are fine free. If you check out a book from another library, and that library charges overdue fines, you will be responsible for those fines.

How will this affect the library's budget?

While the Library is always carefully watching its bottom line, any loss of overdue fine revenue is tiny compared with the good this new policy will do for the community. Overdue fines account for less than 0.75% of the library's overall income and going fine free will not significantly impact the budget moving forward. In addition, due to the rise in electronic materials (which do not accrue late fines) and other factors, fines are not a sustainable form of revenue for the library. Above all, it's worth it to us to forgo the few potential dollars from fines in order to bring more community members into the library.

Our community is stronger and healthier when people have what they need to pursue their goals.

At a glance

  • New Lenox now free of daily fines on most items
  • Fees still charged for damaged, lost items
  • Borrowing privilege suspended if items overdue 21 days or more; once library items are returned, library card privileges are reinstated
  • Studies show small daily fines ineffective at getting items returned, even keeping community members from returning items, using library
  • Other libraries experienced increase in return rates after adopting fine free policies (even items long considered lost)
  • Over 500 American libraries are fine free, including Joliet, Plainfield, Three Rivers (Channahon & Minooka), Fountaindale (Bolingbrook), with many more local libraries planning on going fine free