Lake Forest Library goes Fine-Free starting February 1

Lake Forest Library
360 E Deerpath Rd
Lake Forest IL 60045

Joy Schmoll
Head of Communications


Lake Forest Library goes Fine-Free starting February 1

January 16, 2020 – LAKE FOREST Ill – Lake Forest Library is eliminating overdue fines and outstanding debt for the majority of items in the Library collection starting February 1. By eliminating overdue fines, the Library aims to (1) employ more effective methods to encourage the return of items, (2) re-engage patrons who may have stopped using the Library due to outstanding overdue fines, and (3) use staff time and resources in ways that best serves Library patrons and the Lake Forest community.

Library patrons are encouraged to return any overdue items they have. All existing overdue fine debt will be waived in favor of items being returned and reinstating patron accounts into good standing with the Library. The Library board and staff want everyone to be able to use the Library as often as desired, without patrons excluding themselves because they are late returning a borrowed item.

Lake Forest Library Director Catherine A. Lemmer is overjoyed to see the new policy implemented. "At Lake Forest Library, we care first and foremost that people are coming through the door or visiting online and using the wealth of resources on offer for all. Everyone wins when barriers to library usage are removed. We are delighted to eliminate overdue fines and welcome back all patrons with overdue fine debt or unreturned items. We are committed to providing free, open, and equitable access to the Library in order to best fulfill our mission of inspiring lifelong learning, promoting the free and respectful exchange of ideas, and building community."

Many reasons for Lake Forest Library to eliminate overdue fines

Lake Forest Library began taking steps toward a fine-free future in 2016. During these past three years, the Library board and administrative staff reviewed and updated the Library's financial management practices to position the Library to cease including overdue fines as a funding source.

Going fine-free is a fiscally good move. The revenue generated from overdue fines has declined 80% since 2016. Lake Forest Library has reached a point where the staff time and resources required to collect and process overdue fines has eclipsed the total fines collected. Declines in overdue fines can be attributed to many improvements and changes at the Library, including:

  • longer loan periods (for example, feature movies that previously checked out for three days can now be kept for seven days)
  • automatic renewals (many items may automatically renew up to two times, so an item that initially checks out for three weeks can often be kept for as long as nine weeks)

Overdue fines were never about collecting revenue, but instead were meant to encourage patrons to return materials in a reasonable amount of time so that everyone could enjoy them. Libraries have found that overdue fines can have the opposite effect, however, discouraging people from returning overdue items (to avoid paying mounting fines), which ultimately can discourage them from using the library at all. Libraries therefore risk losing the fine, the unreturned item, and the patron. Even more unfortunate, overdue fines tend to disproportionately affect people who benefit greatly from library access, including children, teens, and low-income individuals.

These unfortunate side effects were an additional motivation for Lake Forest Library to reconsider its fines and fees policies. Removing overdue fines and offering amnesty for overdue debt relieves barriers to library use and access, with the goal of getting people to come back to the Library.

Overview of Lake Forest Library's fine-free policy

Items that will be fine-free:

  • All books, movies, audiobooks, music, magazines, and video games
  • Children's Exploration Kits, Launchpads, and Views
  • Electronic and digital materials—including eBooks, eAudiobooks, and streaming movies and TV shows—return automatically and have always been fine-free


Items that will still accrue overdue fines:

  • Items in Lake Forest Library's "Takeout Tech" collection, including GoPro Kits and portable hard drives, with more items to come in March 2020
  • Items owned by other libraries may accrue overdue fees, depending on the lending library's policy


Library patrons are still responsible for returning items, and patrons with lost or damaged items on their account will be charged the replacement cost. In addition, once an item reaches 15 days overdue, the patron's library card is restricted and the patron cannot check out additional materials until the overdue item is returned. A restricted Lake Forest Library card does not bar a patron from attending library programs, using public computers and Wi-Fi, or accessing library materials while at the Library.

Depending on the notification settings a patron has chosen, they will receive 2–3 messages about their overdue item before their library card is restricted, and another message warning them that they will soon be billed. If an item isn't returned by 45 days after the due date, the patron is billed for replacing the item. Once an item is returned, even if a bill for replacement has been issued, the patron's account is immediately returned to good standing and all library card restrictions are removed.