SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Beginning December 1, 2022, patrons of the Siouxland Libraries will no longer owe overdue fees on materials.

The decision to remove the fees comes after approval by the Siouxland Libraries Board of Trustees. Siouxland Libraries director Jodi Fick says it’s a move that will be beneficial to both patrons and the libraries.

“When we eliminated fines on children’s materials, it actually increased the use of the collection,” Fick said. “There are people who, just the idea that they might have a fine says, ‘I’m not even going to use that resource.’ When we stopped charging, people still returned materials; they’ve actually returned them at a faster rate with the children’s stuff. So, I’m anticipating that our adults are going to do the same thing.”

Fick said charging an overdue fee in theory would encourage people to bring items back on time but that’s not the reality.

“But what it does do, is it means we have to keep track of what’s owed and we have to collect that and that’ll take staff time,” Fick said. “And as everyone knows, time is money. So, we’ll be eliminating some of those tasks by not having to charge people a quarter a day for an overdue item.”

Over the years, the money collected from overdue fees has plummeted.

Fick said this year the library anticipates seeing $16,000 in overdue fees compared to $50,000 in 2016.

“One big thing that we did back in 2016, was add on the automatic renewal of items. And with that, with things automatically renewed, that meant that you didn’t have to remember to call the library to get that. So, at that point, revenue dropped off,” Fick said.

And with the increased interest in digital items, there is no fee because a reader automatically loses access to the item once the time is up.

For Ruby Putnam, a frequent visitor to the downtown Sioux Falls branch, the elimination of fees is exciting.

“That’s great for the patrons,” Putnam said. “I overindulge and get more books than I should and don’t get to finish reading them. And that would be awesome.”

Putnam often brings her grandchildren to the library and believes the change will be beneficial to them as well.

“They got library cards, and my granddaughter had an overdue book recently, and she brought it back and I think she’s a little afraid to go back,” Putnam said. “I’ll tell her about this, and she’ll definitely want to come back and I mean, that’s cool.”

That experience lines up with what Fink, and the libraries, hear from parents about children utilizing library services.

“They’re often at the will of their parents to get those materials back. And since children don’t really have incomes, the overdue fee did not really make an incentive for them to bring things back,” Fick said. “And actually, what we were having, what we were hearing from parents was that as soon as the child would have an overdue fine, they would stop wanting to check out books entirely.”

The elimination of fees comes just weeks before the Winter Reading Program begins, which encourages readers of all ages to participate in a BINGO challenge throughout the winter months.

If you currently have items checked out from Siouxland Libraries and are facing overdue fees, Fick still asks that you return the items.

“However, if you have an overdue item right now, please bring it in. We’ll talk with the staff; we’ll get that cleared off of your account,” Fick said.