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St. Charles library system eliminates late-book fines

St. Charles library system eliminates late-book fines

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Bubbles at Spencer Road library

Patrons celebrate the start of summer reading clubs last year with bubble fun at Spencer Road library in St. Peters. (Photo by Tiffani Stewart of the St. Charles City-County Library)  

St. Charles has now joined St. Louis and other library systems in nixing those pesky fines. 

Rather than charging 10 cents a day for late books (and $1 for DVDs), scofflaws get a pardon — unless materials are actually lost or damaged. You can even keep those cake pans you borrowed a bit longer.

In a news release Tuesday, Jason Kuhl, director of the St. Charles City-County Library, said: “While researching the idea of offering a fine-free library to the community, we discovered that although fines do not represent a significant portion of the Library’s overall budget, they do act as a significant deterrent for those most in need of a library.”

The released noted that overdue fines disproportionately affect children, older adults, disabled and homebound customers, and lower-income households.

“The Library is committed to serving all customers, whatever their age or economic status,” Kuhl said. “In addition, as Covid-19 has created upheaval in the economy, many are experiencing financial hardship as a result. By eliminating overdue fines, the Library hopes to help alleviate one area of potential financial stress for library customers.”

St. Louis Public Library and St. Louis County Library went fine-free in January. Fines made up a small part of their budgets — the county system received about $130,000 as part of its $53 million budget last year. St. Charles received $118,975 in overdue fines with revenue of just over $20.5 million.

The St. Charles system expects to see more people apply for library cards and for more items to be checked out. It says that libraries that have gone fine-free do not see an increase in lost items.

If books, etc., aren't returned within 28 days of due day, however, they are considered lost. Library patrons must pay for lost or damaged items.

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