A new chapter at the bettendorf public library: why and how they are going fine-free

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Pranav Suresh

The Bettendorf Public Library’s Dinosaur Library card lies in front of some books as the library recently went fine-free.

Pranav Suresh, Arts & Entertainment Editor

As the bells ring the new year in, everybody is set on new resolutions and self improvement; one’s resolution may be to exercise more, to be more grateful or to read more books. With that last resolution, the Bettendorf Public Library’s own resolution might help support others in their literary endeavors. This January, the Bettendorf Public Library announced that they are going fine free.

With “Committed to providing access to information and ideas for all,” as the library’s mission statement, eliminating late fines showcase the library’s efforts to create a public resource truly available to all. With this, many questions arise as to the logistics and feasibility of such a change. Many fear that this may drastically decrease the library’s budget and prompt an increase in theft.

Bettendorf Public Library Director Jillian Aschliman helps clarify some of these uncertainties and explains what prompted the shift. “The most common misconception about libraries going fine free is that it will have a negative impact on the library’s budget. In reality, overdue fines generate very little in terms of revenue for most libraries, and in Bettendorf Public Library’s case, fines accounted for less than 1% of our budget before they were eliminated,” Aschliman stated.

And while the budget may not be heavily affected by the switch, many fear that the library has no way to hold book borrowers accountable. This myth, though, is a misconception. The Bettendorf Public Library has implemented many policies to ensure that they can hold library-goers accountable without book fines.

“While fines are removed, that doesn’t mean people can take things from the library and never bring them back. We have a number of systems in place to remind library users when their items are overdue.” Aschliman continued.

First, the library will send a courtesy notice to any cardholder with overdue materials. If the library does not receive the materials back within 30 days of the due date, then a replacement fee is charged. This may scare some since library materials often cost more than late fees, but the true intention of the replacement fee is not to charge library goers.

If the book is returned in good condition after the replacement fee is charged, then the fee is waived, meaning you now owe the library nothing. In that mean time, if the fees on your card exceed $10, then your library card will be blocked from any access to the public resource until fees are paid for or waived by a return.

Some families may not see it as a big deal to pay fees for overdue items, but a few dollars in overdue fines could prevent others from using the library entirely. By removing fines, everybody in Bettendorf has equal access to our resources and materials without worrying about financial barriers.” Aschliman stated. As a public resource, the Bettendorf Public Library strives to provide equal access to all. Not some, but all.

In fact, Aschliman believes the very notion that removing late fines would negatively impact the library logistically or financially is wrong. “This change saves library staff time. Instead of spending time collecting fines, we can focus on other projects and services that are much more impactful in the community.” Aschliman concluded.

In a world where the price of knowledge is only increasing, libraries are true equalizers. Libraries around the country are underutilized considering the great power they hold. 

People of all backgrounds in all age groups can come to the library to enrich oneself, whether it be learning english, reading Dostoevsky or engaging in pop culture by checking out movies and CDs. As costs of education like college tuition and textbooks seem to hike up every year, the cost of publicly funded libraries has steadily kept its price: $0.

Beyond being accessible to everybody, the library places great importance on what is accessible. The library strives at making the accessibility whole and independent of external influence. Though a city department funded by the city, the library has a separate governing board. This board aims to protect against censorship and ensures a diverse collection of ideas and reading material that cater to the whole community.

The position of a library should not be to restrict and control what is available for the community to learn, but rather a resource that helps enhance the self-improvement of citizens. Through these initiatives, the library has shielded against politically driven dissenters who aim to censor content, showcasing that the library is always out to provide a purposeful, enriching resource available and representative of every member of the community.

As everybody flips the page into 2023, the Bettendorf Public Library is ready to start a new chapter without late fines.

For more information, click here for FAQs answered by the library.