Cook Memorial Library

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Cook Memorial Library

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Fine Free FAQ

Going Fine Free - Frequently Asked Questions

What are Fines?
Fines, or “overdue” fines, are charged for library items that are returned late.
Check out time and overdue fines vary between libraries.
At Cook Memorial Library, fines for items returned late were 10 cents per day for most library items. Now there are NO overdue fines at Cook Memorial Library.

Why Fine Free?
- We don’t get much income from overdue fines; they represent less than 1% of our budget.
- What little we lose monetarily will be made up for in good will.
- We incur expenses to collect overdue fines, including staff time and postage.
- Fines disproportionately affect children, teens, and low-income families and create a barrier to using the library.
- Fear of fines stops people from checking out books, or limits the number they check out.
- Studies have shown that punishing people with fines doesn’t actually teach them to return things on time.
- Statistics tell us that libraries which eliminate fines see increased customer registration and circulation.
- Research shows that there is no difference in overdue rates between libraries which charge fines and libraries that don’t charge fines. The percentage of items returned late is the same.

All my fines will be gone?
Only the overdue (late) charges on your Cook Memorial Library account will disappear. Lost and damaged charges will remain your financial responsiblity.
If you visit other libraries and check out items there, you may still accrue overdue fines; we cannot forgive those fines.

Will there still be fines for lost or damaged items?
Yes, we will still charge you for lost or damaged items. Just like before, if you lost or accidentally tore, broke, scribbled on, or soaked an item, we will charge you the replacement cost of the lost or damaged item. Lost and damaged charges on your account will not go away.

Does this mean anyone can keep a library item forever?
No. Just like before, most items can be checked out for three weeks, while DVDs are one week. Just like before, if you keep library materials for too long, they become “lost.”
We will still charge for lost items. Past lost charges on your account will not go away.
If you have paid for a lost item and then find that lost item, it's yours to keep and enjoy. We will not issue a refund.

Will you still charge for copying and printing?
Yes. Black & White: 10 cents per page; Color: 20 cents per page (Double-sided printing/copying is 20 cents or 40 cents.

What about the $5 rule?
Your library account used to be blocked once your owed the Library $5 or more. Because overdue fines no longer accrue on your account, we have set your account to automatically block once you owe the Library $15 or more - the lowest average replacement cost for an item. 

What about items I check out from other libraries?
If you order items from another library but check them out at the Cook Memorial Library, you will not be charged overdue fines. If you go to a different library which still charges fines, and check items out at that location, you will be charged fines for overdue items. We cannot waive these fines.

Can I still give you money?
Yes! You’re welcome to donate spare change if you’re feeling guilty about returning something late. However, we’d rather you feel good about using the library, not guilty! If you really want to help us, please consider donating to the Libraries of Union County Foundation.

Can I get a refund for fines I’ve paid in the past?

Will my taxes increase because the library is going fine-free?

What if my fines don’t disappear?
If after April 1, 2021, you still have fines on your library account, there may be several reasons:
- the charges are for lost or damaged items (you still have to pay these)
- you are not a Cook Memorial Library patron
- you visited another library and checked items out there; these may accrue fines
- our computer system erred (please contact us)

Are other libraries doing this?
Yes! Many libraries across the U.S. are going fine-free. In Oregon, Deschutes, Eugene, Forest Grove, Hood River County, Josephine County, Multnomah County, North Plains, and other libraries are also gone fine-free.

To learn more, you can also click these links:
The American Library Association Resolution on Fines.
A TED Talk on going Fine Free by Dawn Wacek from La Crosse (WI) Public Library.
Cook Memorial Library Press Release on Going Fine Free.