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Iowa City Public Library stops charging overdue fines


The Iowa City Public Library, 123 S Linn St — Jason Smith/Little Village

The Iowa City Public Library will no longer charge fines for overdue books or other materials.

ICPL eliminated overdue fines on books for children and young adults in May 2019. Now that no-fine policy will apply to everything on loan at the library.

“Creating financial barriers to public library use is counterproductive and goes against the Library’s mission to encourage more use, not less,” ICPL Director Elsworth Carman said. When fines for kids and teens were canceled. “We want to remove barriers that stop people from using the Library, and we’re pleased to have the support of the City of Iowa City council members and our Library Board of Trustees to do so.”

As ICPL noted in a statement on Friday, overdue fines disproportionately affect lower-income library users, and discourage them from accessing available resources.

The movement to end fines to make libraries more accessible has been building around the country for the past decade. In 2020, the Metro Library Network in Linn County, which is made up of the public libraries in Cedar Rapids, Hiawatha and Marion, eliminated fines. Libraries in West Liberty, West Branch and Ely have also gone fine-free.

ICPL’s new policy took effect on Friday, July 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year. It does not, however, offer amnesty to those who had a guilt-inducing stack of overdue books as of June 30.

“The Fine Free change is not retroactive and does not eliminate unpaid fines that patrons already had on their Library accounts prior to the change going into effect,” ICPL said in its statement on Friday. “Cardholders will still be responsible for fines assessed prior to the change.”


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