© 2024 WGLT
A public service of Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Bloomington library offering annual amnesty for long-lost items

Large brick building with tall windows and an American flag in the foreground
Eric Stock
The Bloomington Public Library's expansion project is expected to be finished by this summer.

The Bloomington Public Library is implementing an annual fee amnesty program for long-lost items. Once a year, the library will wipe records of materials lost for more than five years.

The library first wiped 5-year-old records when it switched to a new computer system in 2019.

Woman smiling in front of red painted wall
Jeanne Hamilton is director of the Bloomington Public Library.

“That was kind of our first step in moving towards a more equitable environment,” library director Jeanne Hamilton said in an interview on WGLT’s Sound Ideas.

“Each year, once a year, we’ll wipe any lost fees that have been on people’s accounts for five years or more,” said Hamilton, adding the library tries not to let late fees affect someone’s ability to use the library. But this will help mitigate that even more.

“They’re really missing out on being able to take books home,” she said, “and then looking at these accounts that are going to be waived at this point in time, 26% of those were kids.”

The move clears more than $220,000 in outstanding balances from more than 2,300 patrons. As of March, the library had outstanding balances of more than $447,000 from more than 5,000 patrons.

“I think this is something we as a community can be really proud of,” Hamilton said, “and I think people already are.”

In 2018, the library started offering automatic renewals on checked-out items if they are not returned by the due date. That means if you have an item checked out, it will automatically be renewed up to three times after its due date, provided the item isn’t on a waitlist.

Expansion timeline

Regarding BPL's ongoing construction project, Hamilton said the library expects to fully open its newly expanded and renovated space by this summer.

The $25 million project is adding more community rooms and extra spaces like a recording studio and an innovation lab.

Originally, the project was expected to be completed in 18 months. An updated timeline puts the total expected time at 24 months.

“In this day and age, that’s pretty great,” said Hamilton, pointing out that significant parts of the library are open and many services are still available.

Hamilton said the expansion will help the library serve more people by having a space more proportionate to the city's population, noting the population has nearly doubled since 1976, when the library opened. The only previous expansion came in 2006 when it added 25% more space.

“We felt undersized for the community and the growth that we experienced over the years,” Hamilton said.

Threats to library employees

Intimidating or threatening a library employees could carry stiffer penalties under a new proposal Illinois lawmakers are considering.

House Bill 4567 comes in the wake of a rise in threats library employees across the country have faced in recent years over books and other content some may find objectionable.

Hamilton said her staff has occasionally felt that hostility.

“I really wished that it wasn’t necessary, but I think that it’s nice to feel heard,” Hamilton said.

The proposal would define library employees as public officials.

The new designation carries the possibility of additional jail time and a higher class of felony for threatening library employees.

Erik Dedo is a reporting and audio production intern at WGLT. He joined the station in 2022.
Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.