Fine-Free FAQs

Why go fine-free?

It’s good for our community. Our community is stronger when people have access to the materials, programs, and services libraries provide. Research has shown that overdue fines are not effective in encouraging the return of library materials. Instead, fines can quickly become a barrier to using the library. We hope eliminating overdue fines will encourage former users to come back to the library and attract new users as well.

The bottom line is going fine-free allows us to focus on serving our community with as few barriers as possible.

What is the difference between a fine and a fee?

Fines are punitive. Fees are for library services and products such as copying, printing, material replacement costs, etc.

Going fine-free helps eliminate barriers to library use as we want all patrons to have access to the library. We have found that fines are punitive and disproportionately affect low-income families.

Library users are still responsible for returning materials on time. Accounts with unpaid charges of $10 or more, or with materials that are more than 14 days overdue will be blocked from checking out additional materials, placing holds, or renewing materials until the overdue items have been returned in good condition or paid for.

The vast majority of libraries that have made the change to a fine-free system have found that overdue fines do not affect how fast people bring books back; return rates are the same before and after.

The library’s primary mission is “connecting people and ideas.” A majority of people want to return their books on time, but life gets in the way. There is no research to demonstrate that fines help teach responsibility.

We spend more money processing fines than we collect. Going fine-free means we can use those resources to improve library services for your benefit! Overdue fines account for less than 0.5% of the library’s overall revenue and going fine-free will not significantly affect the budget moving forward.

All existing overdue fines will be removed from your account beginning January 1st, 2023. Library users may still see charges for lost or damaged items. Please get in touch with us if you have questions about your account.

Most fine-free libraries report that a majority of library users still return their materials on time, and waitlists aren’t affected. Library staff will continue to monitor waitlists and adjust accordingly. We always encourage library users to return materials on time so others can enjoy them.

You can pay your overdue fine if you wish or you can wait until the first of the year and the overdue fines will be removed from your account. If your account is blocked because you owe $10 or more, then you will need to pay it down to under $10 in order to check out more materials.

Our library is governed by our policies and the change to our policy regarding overdue fines takes effect starting on January 1st, 2023. Any overdue fines paid before this date applied to the current policy and can’t be reimbursed.

No. Many libraries are eliminating their fines!

The Urban Libraries Council has published an interactive map showing U.S. libraries that have gone “fine free.”