Sycamore Public Library waives fees on past due items

By Jack McCarthy Chronicle Media

The Sycamore Public Library has waived late fees for books and items it lends, eliminating barriers that may have prevented some people from fully utilizing library services.

Knowledge is free to all at the Sycamore Public Library.

And as of this month, returning materials past due dates will no longer come with a price tag either.

The Library, located at 103 E. State in downtown Sycamore, announced on Jan. 11 that it has eliminated fines for overdue materials.

“We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve gone fines-free,” the Library stated on its web site. “Say goodbye to overdue fines and hello to a more accessible and inclusive library experience.

“This bold step aligns with our core belief that everyone should have equal access to our library’s vast collection and services without the burden of financial penalties. By eliminating fines, we aim to remove barriers that may have prevented some community members from fully benefiting from the wealth of knowledge we offer.”

Library systems large and small around the nation have eliminated late fees in recent years and the American Library Association called for its end in a 2019 resolution.

“Monetary fines present an economic barrier to access of library materials and service … (and) there is mounting evidence that indicates eliminating fines increases library card adoption and library usage,” the ALA declared.

With an overall operating budget of around $1.6 million, library fines are a small line item on the Sycamore Public Library’s spreadsheet. According to library board documents from December’s board meeting, the library collected $9,482 in fines between May-December 2023.

The library also received an additional $778 for lost or damaged materials and it will continue to seek replacement costs from patrons for such materials.

“While we are fine-free, patrons are still responsible for returning borrowed items,” the library web site stated. “If an item is lost or damaged, you will be responsible for the replacement cost.”

The library still encourages timely returns and will send out reminders about due dates. If that date has passed, the library will automatically renew materials one time unless another patron has reserved it.

Printed and audio books, music CDs, learning games and puzzles and science kits can be borrowed for three weeks before renewals.  DVDs, video games, launch pad tablets, magazines and other materials can be borrowed for one week.

The library is located in a landmark structure that features a red brick exterior and distinctive cupola. It is located in the Sycamore Historic District, a collection of more than 200 structures that make up a National Register of Historic Places-recognized neighborhood.

The Sycamore Public Library opened at its current location in 1905, across the street from the DeKalb County Courthouse. Funding for the structure, designed in what is described as the Byzantine Style, came in part from a $10,000 in funding from industrialist Andrew Carnegie, who helped support establishments of public libraries around the nation.

An addition to the original Carnegie Building opened in 1997, more than tripling available space to 21,700 square feet for books and library services.

A full renovation occurred in 2012 to create expanded space for children, teens and adults, including Internet services.  A new roof was installed in 2017 and historic windows were replaced in 2020.

The library is open daily. Hours vary so check or call (815) 895-2500 for more information.