Chicago Becomes The First Major U.S. City To Wipe Out Overdue Library Fees

chicago library fees

While it’s annoying when people don’t return library books by their due date, especially if there’s a waiting list for the book in question, it’s a small inconvenience at best. There are plenty of legitimate reasons someone might not be able to make it back to their local branch to return a book on time, and instituting library fees or even banning users for this rather minor offense only serves to create unnecessary barriers for low-income communities, something Chicago residents know all too well.

Thankfully, the city’s Mayor Lori Lightfoot has decided to take action, eliminating all outstanding overdue fees as well as barring the city’s libraries from incurring charges for books returned past their due date in the future.

They’re the largest U.S. city do implement this policy, which will begin earlier this month, according to The AP.

At the moment, city libraries automatically block accounts with more than $10 of outstanding fees, with one in three cardholders in the city’s South District being blocked while only one out of six in the North District are locked out. Out of all the blocked cards, one in five belongs to a child under 14 years of age.

Moving forward, all books that are checked out will automatically renew up to 15 times, save for books with holds placed on them by other users. Lost books will be charged as such, though the charges will be removed from the user’s account should the book be located and returned.

“The bold reforms we’re taking to make the Chicago Public Library system fine-free and forgive city sticker debt will end the regressive practices disproportionately impacting those who can least afford it, ensure every Chicagoan can utilize our city’s services and resources, and eliminate the cycles of debt and generational poverty because of a few mistakes,” Lightfoot said in a statement.

“This is about educating folks, giving them access to learning, having a safe space where people can come and learn.”

Detroit and Phoenix are said to be planning to follow in Chicago’s footsteps in the coming months.


Written by Jennifer Still