A Letter from the Library's Director

Dear Chatham Area Public Library Community,

When I first tell someone that I’m a Librarian, do you know what they say? They typically confess that they owe overdue fines (late fees). It even came up when I gave a new board member their trustee orientation a few years back. I had to explain that we absolutely don’t judge our board members (or anyone!) based on their use of the Library. This overdue fine response is one based in shame, and it’s not how we want people to think about their relationship with their library.

As of February 15, 2021, the Chatham Area Public Library will officially eliminate all fines on overdue materials for its library cardholders and registered reciprocal borrowers. In doing so, we will join an expanding group of libraries across Central Illinois - including libraries in Normal, Bloomington, Champaign, Effingham, Decatur, Clinton and Mattoon - and throughout the country. 

The pandemic has been difficult for everyone. As many of you may know, during the past eleven months, we did not charge fines; we waived them. We understood that many had lost much and were struggling with childcare, medical concerns, and more. Difficulties abound for members of our community, and we didn’t want to be a place that created one more hurdle - one more hardship. Throughout this time, our patrons have remained diligent in returning library items, and we’ve suffered no significant adverse consequence from removing those fines.   

We decided to investigate eliminating late fees further, and, after researching and discussing this issue with our library colleagues, we began looking at fines differently. In 2019, the American Library Association passed a resolution declaring “monetary library fines a form of social inequity.” As we looked more closely, we learned that the research finds that imposing fines neither teaches responsibility nor motivates borrowers to return items on time. Instead, it has been found that once fines are assessed, a patron is less likely to return to the library. We felt compelled to act.

Last fall, our Library Board of Trustees began discussing the possibility of fine removal, and after research and discussion, recently voted unanimously to remove fines. They determined that financially, because fines made up less than 1% of the library’s operating budget, that the library could maintain the same level of service without that additional revenue. We believe that this is a path forward that reduces barriers to access while remaining responsible stewards of tax dollars.

You may be thinking that by removing fines, we’re removing all penalties for failing to return library items. This is untrue. You will still be responsible for returning library items, and, if you don’t, we will consider them lost and you’ll be responsible for payment.  We are simply no longer charging daily late fees.

We are excited to close the book on fines and open new ways for you to view and connect with your Library. Equity of access is at the core of our work, and I believe that our decision to go fine-free is a step toward that end. I look very forward to this new fine-free world and hope you’ll stop in to see us. Our doors are open, and we are here for you.

Sincerely,

Amy Byers

Chatham Area Public Library Director

Fine-Free Q&As

At its January meeting, the Board of Trustees revised library policies to stop the assessment of overdue fines for items checked out at the Chatham Area Public Library, effective February 15, 2021. Please note that the information below relates to Chatham Area Public Library cardholders and Chatham Area Public Library registered reciprocal borrowers only.

Learn more about these changes below:

Why the change?

There are many reasons why we have decided to stop charging overdue fines, but the main reason is that overdue fines are widely recognized by professional library organizations as a form of social inequity. The American Library Association and others have conducted multiple studies that show that imposing fines neither teaches responsibility nor motivates borrowers to return items on time.

Being fine-free also improves the checkout process by allowing our staff to focus on more positive interactions with patrons. We want people to be excited about coming to the Library, rather than worried about whether or not they owe a fine. We hope to welcome back anyone who felt discouraged about using the Library because of a fine on their account.

The bottom line is that we want library services to be as equitable and accessible as possible, and removing overdue fines is the best step we can take as an organization toward that goal.

How does this work?

Libraries work because borrowers are entrusted to return materials so that others may use them. Patrons are still expected to adhere to loan periods and return or renew items on or before the due date. Due dates are provided at checkout and can be viewed when you log into your online library accounts. If an item is overdue, the Library will send up to 3 overdue notices via mail or email (Please make sure the email address on your account is up to date!). Your account will be blocked from further check-outs once the item is 14 days overdue unless it is either renewed or returned. Your account will be billed for the item when the item is 28 days overdue

Although patrons will not be charged overdue fines, the Library will suspend borrowing privileges when items are not returned in a timely manner.

Once an item is returned, the billed item and associated charges will be removed and borrowing privileges will be reinstated.

**During the COVID-19 pandemic, the library quarantines returned items for up to 7 days before further handling and check-in. Bills will only be issued when the items are 28 days overdue. Once an item is checked in, the bill will be removed and borrowing privileges will be reinstated. **

Do items still have due dates?

Yes, each item will still have a due date, and you are still responsible for honoring the due date or renewing the item.  When you return items on time, it helps your neighbors borrow items sooner. To help you return items on time, we can send you reminders by email. You can set up email reminders in your library account.

How will overdue items be treated now?

While you will no longer be charged a fine, if a Chatham Area Public Library item is 14 days overdue, your account will be blocked from any further checkouts until you return or renew the item. The account block includes checking out physical items (books, CDs, DVDs, etc.), as well as access to our digital collections (including downloads from Libby, Hoopla, Kanopy, etc.) and research databases.

If an item is more than 28 days past due, you will need to either return the item or pay the replacement cost to unblock your account.

Items borrowed from other libraries are subject to the lending policies of their home libraries.

If there are no fines, what keeps me from not returning items?

Though we are no longer charging overdue fines, there are still consequences if a patron never returns an item. When one or more items on a patron’s account reaches 28 days overdue, the patron’s account will be billed for those items and no more checkouts will be allowed until the balance is paid or the items are returned.

We trust that our patrons are checking items out with the intention of bringing them back for others to use. Libraries that have removed overdue fines have reported very few adverse effects.

Have my past overdue fines been erased? 

We are working to remove all previous overdue fines that are on your accounts.   This may take some time, but if you have blocks on your account due to overdue fines, please reach out to us and we will address it right away.

If you had fees on your account due to lost or damaged items, you will still need to settle your account to get your card ready to borrow items once again. We are happy to work with you on getting your account back in good standing!

To find out if there is a balance on your account, log into your account at www.chathamlib.org, call us at (217) 483-2713, email us at [email protected], or ask a staff member at the Library.

What’s the difference between a fine and a fee?

Fines are daily penalties assessed for the late return of library items. We no longer charge fines at the Chatham Area Public Library.

Fees are replacement charges assessed for materials that are lost, unreturned or returned damaged.

Will this loss of revenue hurt the Library?

The loss of revenue to the library is minimal, as the overdue fines collected in any given fiscal year make up less than 1% of the library’s overall budget. While that amount is not completely insignificant, we believe that the benefits of making the library more equitable and accessible to our community are more important than the loss of revenue from overdue fines.

If you are interested in donating to the library, please click here.

Will I have to wait longer for popular items to be returned?

Libraries that have gone fine-free have not seen any difference in when items are returned. Most items are returned within a week of their due date.

What will happen if I don’t return my materials on time?

If you have overdue materials or fees from lost or damaged items, you will be unable to check out materials or download any eBooks or audiobooks.

I haven’t used my library card in years! Will it still work?

Chatham Area Public Library cards expire every three years. If your card is inactive after expiration, it may have been deleted. The best way to find out the status of your card is to call us at (217) 483-2713 or stop in to the Chatham Area Public Library. We’re always happy to help!

Q: What happens if I lose or damage an item I checked out?

You will be charged a fee to replace the item.

Q: Will I still have to pay to copy, print and fax documents at the Library?

Yes. Fees will still be charged for services, including copying, printing and faxing.

Q. You mentioned studies, can you share some resources regarding removing library fines with me?

A.  Absolutely! Here are links to some of the studies and articles related to going fine free:

Overdue and wait times:

Fine Free Policies - a detailed analysis of the return rates, days overdue, and circulation in several libraries that have gone fine free.

https://www.libraryconnection.info/documents/fine_free_policies_report_SC-2019-03-22.pdf

Libraries are Increasing Usage by Going Fine Free - a report from Information Today about the fine free trend in U.S. libraries and how it is increasing checkouts.

http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/NewsBreaks/Libraries-Are-Increasing-Usage-by-Going-FineFree-133407.asp

Children and families:

Removing Barriers to Access: Eliminating Library Fines and Fees on Children's Materials - a report from the Colorado State Library that presents a thorough overview of all of the research done on elimination of fines and borrowing behavior and how fines can adversely impact the borrowing behavior of families with children.

https://www.cde.state.co.us/cdelib/removingbarrierstoaccess

Equity and access:

A Year After Denver Public Library Ended Late Fees, Patrons - and Their Books - are Returning - a report on Denver Public Library's decision to go fine free, one year later.

https://www.denverpost.com/2019/12/28/denver-public-library-late-fees-eliminated/

General Information on Fine-Free Libraries:

Doing Fine(s)? | Fines and Fees - A report from Library Journal on a survey of 450 randomly selected libraries about fine policies and procedures, and the impacts of going fine free.

https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=doing-fines-fines-fees

A Librarian’s Case Against Overdue Book Fines - a TED Talk from a Librarian in Wisconsin, discussing how fines negatively impacted her patrons.

 https://www.ted.com/talks/dawn_wacek_a_librarian_s_case_against_overdue_book_fines?language=e n

Circulation Policy 4-20

Last Amended: January 18th, 2021

Purpose

The Chatham Area Public Library District (CAPLD) is a tax-supported public library.  This means that people residing within the boundaries of the Chatham Area Public Library District pay taxes to support the Library.  People who live within the boundaries pay no additional fee to be eligible to receive their library card. 

Library Cards

Library Card Responsibility

Library card holders apply for the right to use the services and facilities of Chatham Area Public Library and agree to abide by the rules of the Library and fees charged to their library card accounts. Cardholders understand that they are solely responsible for items checked out with their library card. Chatham Area Public Library Cards are not transferable. The Chatham Area Public Library is not responsible for damages direct, or indirect, resulting from the borrowing or use of Library materials or its equipment.

Patrons assume full responsibility for the return, damage or fees for materials loaned under this policy. Library cards are renewed every 3 years without additional fees, provided the library card holder continues to reside within the boundaries of the Chatham Area Public Library District and is a patron in good standing.

A child's parent/legal guardian will assume responsibility for charges incurred while the child is in their care. Legal guardians are responsible for notifying the Library when the child is no longer in their care.

A Chatham Area Public Library card is valid when it meets the following conditions:

a) It is registered with the card holder’s correct name and permanent address in the Library’s database;

b) The outstanding charges against the holder do not exceed $5.00;

c) The card has not expired;

d) The person in possession of the card is the one to whom it was issued or, in limited circumstances, authorized to use the card.

Renewals, Updates and Lost or Stolen Cards

A Chatham Area Public Library card is valid for 3 years from the date of issue and may be renewed by presenting the card at the circulation desk with one current proof of identification, providing the identification carries the correct address for the patron. See also, the chart below with Categories 1 & 2, regarding identity and residency verification.

Cardholders are to promptly inform the Library of a lost card, change of address or change of personal contact information such as email and phone number.

In the event of a lost or stolen library card, the original card becomes permanently invalid, and a replacement card will be issued. The replacement fee for lost cards is $1.00.

Library Card Application

Residents within the Chatham Area Public Library District boundaries who are 16 years of age or older are encouraged to begin the library card application process by visiting the Library with pieces of identification from both categories as listed below. The person applying must provide the street address of their residence on the library card application; P.O. Boxes will not be accepted. If mail is received at a post office box, both the post office box address and the street address of the residence must be given.

Persons owing fines, fees or overdue materials to this or other libraries must take care of these obligations before a Chatham Area Public Library card will be issued.

Category 1: Verify Identification

Category 2: Verify Residency

 

  1. Present government-issued photo ID
  • Must show responsible party’s name
  • May be either State or Federal
  1. Present high school issued photo ID
  • Must show responsible party’s name
  • Must be valid for the current school year
  1. Show One:
  • Current lease or mortgage statement
  • Utility bill, revolving account, or bank statement issued in the last 30 days
  • Current car registration or auto insurance
  • Official first class mail marked “Or Current Resident” are not acceptable
  1. Have card mailed to residence
  • Initial restrictions apply and are outlined below

The responsible party may choose to verify their residency by having the library card mailed to their residence. Library cards will not be mailed to a Post Office Box.

At the patron’s request, library notices may be received at a PO Box but the patron’s physical address must remain on file.

If at any time a library card or notice is returned to the library through the post office, the patron’s account may be blocked and the patron may be asked to provide proof of residency using one of the documents from Column 2, Option A above before the card may be used again.

Library Card Account Linking

The Library reserves the right to link the library card accounts of parents/guardians to the accounts of their children under the age of 16. The Library reserves the right to block from use all library cards belonging to the same address in a linked group based on the delinquency of any one library card in said group. Library card privileges will be blocked for all adults in the group when the fees for the group total $25 and up.

Second-Party Authorization

Adult cardholders ages 16 and older may designate another adult to pick up materials on hold or update contact information on their behalf. The cardholder must be physically present to make this designation. This permission information is to be recorded as a note in the cardholder’s library card account. The patron must grant permission in writing listing those individuals who are allowed to check out interlibrary loaned or reserved materials on their account. When picking up held or interlibrary loan materials, the authorized second-party should present the library card of the individual who reserved the material. The material will be checked out to this card.

Types of Cards:

Resident Adult

Use of a personal library card is limited to the patron whose name appears in the library card account.

As a resident card holder, the borrower may physically take their library card to any public library in Illinois and ask to borrow materials.  Those materials are the responsibility of the individual who borrows them and are subject to all of the fines, rules and regulations of the lending library. Often libraries limit the borrowing privileges of reciprocal borrowers, and it is important to be aware of local rules and procedures before making selections.

Resident Child

A child under age 16 may be given a personal library card if the parent or legal guardian signs the card application and accepts financial responsibility for any fees or charges that the child incurs with that card.  The parent or legal guardian who can verify with approved identification that they reside at the same address is accepted as proof of residency for the child.

A child who has a library card may access all available library materials, including books, movies and other materials.

A child aged 12 through 15 may be given permission to use the Library's Internet-accessible computers by the parent or legal guardian during the card application process.This permission information is to be recorded as a note in the cardholder’s library card account.

A child has the same rights to privacy and confidentiality as any other patron.

The parent or guardian who has signed the application has the right to restrict use of the library by withdrawing the child's personal library card at any time.

Resident Family

A Resident Family card is one account with multiple cards of the same account number issued to one adult resident and each of their dependents.

A family card is valid for 3 years from the date of issue.

A Resident Family card may be renewed by presenting the card at the circulation desk with one current proof of identification.

A child aged 12 through 15 may be given permission to use the Library's Internet-accessible computers by the parent or legal guardian during the card application process. This permission information is to be recorded as a note in the cardholder’s library card account.

The parent or legal guardian who signs the application for a family card is the primary cardholder and is responsible for any fees or charges to the account.

Residential Status

Resident

A resident is any person who resides within the boundaries of the Chatham Area Public Library District and is taxed for library service on their property tax bills.

Non-Resident

Non-residents are those living outside the boundaries of a library service area. Following Illinois State Law, these patrons must register for a non-resident library card at the participating public library located closest to the person’s principal residence and that is within the resident’s school district boundaries.

Non-residents of the Chatham Area Public Library District are eligible to receive a Chatham Area Public Library card if they meet the above criteria. All laws that govern the Non-Resident Program will be followed. The annual non-resident fee is established by the Chatham Area Public Library Board of Trustees based on the Illinois State Library’s property tax formula. 

Property Owners Living Outside the CAPLD Boundaries

Those who live outside of the boundaries of the Chatham Area Public Library District, but who own property within the boundaries of the Chatham Area Public Library District, may have one personal library card for use by each individual whose name(s) appears on the tax bill without additional payment. A presentation of a tax bill would be used for verification.

Reciprocal Borrower

Any person holding a valid library card from a library participating in the Illinois Reciprocal Borrowing Program may borrow library materials.  

If patron’s library is not a part of the SHARE regional automation consortium which includes the Chatham Area Public Library, an application must be completed, the patron’s home library must be contacted to verify that the patron is in good standing, and the information from the library card application must be entered into the SHARE patron database.

Reciprocal borrowing privileges are valid until the user’s home library card expires.

All Chatham Area Public Library District policies apply to reciprocal borrowers.

The Chatham Area Public Library follows the ILLNET code which requires that a reciprocal borrower, whose home library is not a fully participating member of the SHARE automation system, place requests for items via interlibrary loan through the home library.

Use of the reciprocal card is limited to the patron whose name appears in the library card account.

The Ball-Chatham School District is served by two libraries: Chatham Area Public Library District and Lincoln Library in Springfield.  Those living within the boundaries of the Ball-Chatham School District, but not in the Chatham Area Public Library District, must apply for a library card at the Lincoln Library in Springfield.

Staff

A Chatham Area Public Library card may be issued to library staff members who reside outside the jurisdictional boundaries of the Chatham Area Public Library District.

Staff library cards are valid until the staff member leaves the Library’s employment.

Borrowing Library Materials

To borrow materials from the Chatham Area Public Library, a patron must have a valid Chatham Area Public Library Card or present a valid library card from another Illinois public library. A Chatham Area Library District resident who has a valid card may present a photo ID with name and address on the ID, such as a State of Illinois driver’s license or ID, in lieu of the library card to checkout materials.

Children are not limited to materials in the juvenile collections.  Parents must supervise their own child’s selection of library materials.

Cardholders from SHARE consortium libraries may check out items at the Chatham Area Public Library by presenting the card issued by their home library.

Cardholders from non-SHARE consortium libraries in the state of Illinois may be registered as reciprocal borrowers at Chatham Area Public Library by presenting their library card issued by their home library, filling out an application and presenting proof of address. The Chatham Area Public Library staff will contact the patron’s home library to ensure that the card presented is in good standing and clear of any outstanding fines, overdue materials, and blocks. Once registered, reciprocal borrowers may check out Chatham Area Public Library materials by presenting their library card or a valid photo ID.

Requests

Chatham Area Public Library resident and family cardholders may place a request for any circulating item that is available in the SHARE database either directly through their online account in the public access catalog on the Library’s website or with the assistance of the Library Staff.

The Library Staff will attempt to notify the patron when the requested item becomes available. The information is also available through a patron’s online account. The requested item will be held for seven days for the patron. After that time, the item is made available for circulation or returned to the lending library.

Loan Periods and Renewals

Loan periods and limits on quantities of specific types of materials that may be checked out are listed in the Loan Chart in Appendix A. Library staff may set other quantity limits when needed. Temporary restrictions may be necessary if there is a shortage of materials in certain areas or in order to ensure that an entire collection is not checked out at one time.

All circulating items owned by the Chatham Area Public Library may be renewed in person, by telephone, or by online catalog for an additional two-week period unless there are requests on the title or the material type does not allow renewals (see Loan Chart in Appendix A).

Items owned by other libraries within the SHARE automated catalog database may be renewed if there are no outstanding requests for them and renewals are still available on the item. The length of the loan period and renewal amount are set by the owning library

Lending policies may be waived for an individual in special circumstances with the specific permission of the Library Director or designated staff.  Vacation checkouts for extended periods of time are available only on Chatham Area Public Library materials at the discretion of the Library staff.

Overdues and Notices

Materials held by a cardholder beyond the due date will be considered overdue.

The Library does not charge overdue fines.

The Chatham Area Public Library will make a good faith effort to notify cardholders when their items become overdue according to their communication preferences and contact information set up at the time of library card registration. Overdue notification is a courtesy. The Library is not responsible if the notification is not received by the cardholder.

Patrons will be notified when their materials are due with the schedule found in Appendix B.

Interlibrary Loans

When resident patrons would like materials that are not available within the SHARE consortium of Libraries, Chatham Area Public Library Staff may request those materials outside of the SHARE consortium.  This process is called interlibrary loan, or ILL.  The Library makes every effort to borrow items at no or nominal cost. If a lending library charges a fee, the requesting patron will be notified of the cost before the item is formally requested and given the opportunity to withdraw the request.

Patrons borrowing through interlibrary loan must respect the due dates established by the lending library so that the Chatham Area Public Library will not lose the privilege of borrowing materials for any of its patrons. It is crucial, therefore, that materials borrowed through interlibrary loan be returned in a timely manner. Habitual failure to do so will result in individual loss of the privilege in order to preserve the privilege for other library patrons.

Lost and Damaged Materials

If an item is lost, the borrower is liable for the replacement cost of the item. 

If an item is damaged, a charge will be assessed based on the cost of repair.  If the item is damaged beyond reasonable repair, full replacement price will be charged. The fees will remain on the account until they are paid. It is the discretion of the Circulation Supervisor or their designee to determine  if an identical replacement of the item is acceptable in lieu of payment.

Borrowers who pay for a damaged item within 30 days may have that item. After 30 days, the damaged item charges will remain, but the item will be discarded.

The Library Director or their designee may place borrowing restrictions on a patron who habitually damages materials.

A full refund will be made if the materials owned by the Chatham Area Public Library are returned in good condition with the original receipt within ninety (90) days of the date of payment for the loss.

Items borrowed from another library will be subject to the charges and fees set by that library for lost or damaged items.

A patron may claim an item was either never checked out or was returned. A maximum of five claims per life of a patron’s card is allowed.

Theft or Deliberate Damage of Library Materials

The Chatham Area Public Library District Board of Library Trustees will enforce rules and regulations pertaining to the removal or retention of library materials from the Library or to the mutilation of same. The definition of “library material” as stated in Illinois Criminal Code of 1961 shall apply.

Any person attempting to remove books or other materials from the Library without checking them out will be charged up to the replacement cost of each item stolen or damaged, may have suspended library privileges according to established procedures, and/or may be prosecuted by the Sangamon County State’s Attorney’s Office.

CONFIDENTIALITY

The Chatham Area Public Library District, in accordance with the Illinois Public Library District Act, will keep all records about patron transactions and the identity of registered Library patrons confidential. No such records or identities will be disclosed except as provided by law, and the Library District legal counsel has been consulted.

In accordance with the Library Records Confidentiality Act, a library patron’s registration and circulation records information may not be disclosed to anyone other than the patron regardless of age or relationship except as provided by law.

APPENDIX A:

Materials

Loan Period

Limit

Renewals?

 

Adult Books, audiobooks, DVDs and CDs

2 weeks

100

yes; 3 renewals

Child and YA Books, audiobooks, DVDs and CDs

2 weeks

100

yes; 3 renewals

Kits and Library of Things

2-6 weeks

1

perhaps; 0-3 renewals

Puzzles

2 months

100

yes; 3 renewals

Magazines, excluding the newest issue

2 weeks

100

yes; 3 renewals

Mobile Hotspot    2 weeks   1 no renewals

Magazines, newest issue

No loans, unless for special circumstances

Reference, Local History & Genealogy Collections

No loans, unless for special circumstances

Fees for a lost or damaged item will not exceed the cost of the item

Specific details about loan periods and renewals are listed in the catalog

APPENDIX B:

Timeline for Overdue Notices

3 days before the due date: Courtesy notice will be sent via email or text message.

7 days overdue: Notice will be sent.

14 days overdue: Notice will be sent the card is blocked. Until items are returned or renewed, patrons will be unable to place holds or check out any materials. 

21 days overdue: Notice that explains that a billing notice will be sent in 7 days

28 days overdue: Billing Notice will be sent for the full replacement cost of the item(s).