The Barrington Area Library is pleased to announce that it will no longer charge overdue fines.

Why? We want to eliminate as many barriers to library service as possible, and, we’d rather focus our time, energy, and resources on building positive relationships with you, our valued customers!

What does this mean for customers?

Most items check out for four weeks. See a detailed list of loan periods.

A reminder is sent before items are due. Weekly reminders are sent once items are overdue.

Customers may log into their accounts to renew items for up to two additional loan periods, provided they are not on hold for other customers. Auto-renewal is not available at this time.

At four weeks overdue, a bill for replacement is sent, and the customer’s library account is paused. Paused accounts may not be used to borrow physical materials. To reactivate an account, items more than four weeks overdue must be returned or renewed, or, the replacement cost must be paid.

Our Customer Service team has been systematically removing old overdue fines from accounts as well. Fees will still apply in certain circumstances: MakerLab materials, Meeting Room coffee service, Non-Resident Library Cards, Interlibrary Loan items that are not picked up.

How and why did the Library make this decision?

Every community is unique, and every public library must balance the unique wants, needs, and characteristics of the community it serves with the need for due diligence and fiscal responsibility. In order to make a well-informed decision regarding the elimination of overdue fines, BALibrary staff spent more than a year researching the borrowing process. What that process revealed: Barrington Area Library customers are conscientious stewards of library materials! On average, at any given time, only about .6% of the Library’s collection is overdue. Only about .2% of the collection is ever more than 21 days overdue. The Library believes that strong sense of responsibility to the larger community will remain, even without overdue fines.

Also discovered in the research process: overdue fines disproportionately affect children, which goes against the Library’s mission goal of creating young readers. When barriers are removed and opportunities are increased, everyone benefits.

Eliminating overdue fines will also improve efficiency and the Library’s bottom line. In years past, one out of every five Customer Service transactions related to fine payment. Fines collection costs the Library more than $22,000 a year in staff time and vendor costs. Those human and financial resources can now be used for initiatives that foster positive community relationships.

When the Library temporarily closed in March 2020 due to COVID-19, plans were already underway to eliminate overdue fines. During the closure, the Library extended due dates so overdue fines would not accrue, even after the Library reopened in July. Customer Service staff also worked behind the scenes to waive all previous outstanding overdue fines from customer accounts. The Library Board of Trustees approved the final policy change to eliminate overdue fines at its regular meeting on Monday, September 14, 2020.

What happens if I have lost an item?

A bill for lost items is sent at four weeks overdue. Customers may simply return the items and the bill will be cancelled. If the item is lost, damaged, or unable to be returned, customers may pay the bill online or in person at the Customer Service desk. Under this new policy, customers are charged a discounted library rate equivalent to the replacement cost, with a small processing fee. If a customer finds an item after paying the bill, a refund may be processed up to 90 days after the item was declared lost.