No Fines Policy

Fines for late books have always been part of the library experience. But should they be?

Barriers to access
While overdue fines are assumed to help get books returned and back in circulation, the fact is that for many families in our community, overdue fines are a real barrier to access. For those who can afford the fines, paying a small late fee is no problem, so the overdue fines are not a particularly strong incentive. For those who can’t afford the overdue fines, they have a disproportionately negative impact. In fact, librarians at Toledo Lucas County Public Library (TLCPL) hear from people daily that the fear of fines keeps them from accessing Library materials. This is in direct opposition to TLCPL’s mission to engage all of our communities, inspire lifelong learning, and provide universal access to a broad range of information, ideas and entertainment. To improve access and opportunity in our community, TLCPL will be eliminating overdue fines effective January 1, 2019.

The negative consequences of overdue fines have prompted numerous library systems in Ohio, including the Columbus Metropolitan Library and Dayton Metro Library, and other libraries across the country, to eliminate overdue fines during the last few years. The systems have seen increases in the amount of materials borrowed, without any significant increase in materials not returned. In fact, Colorado’s library district found that 95 percent of materials are returned within a week of their due date. TLCPL eliminated fines for youth, senior and military cards in 2016 which has improved access and opportunities for these populations and serves as a springboard for eliminating overdue fines for the entire community.

What about accountability?
Historically, overdue fines have been viewed as a way to make people accountable for the privilege of borrowing materials and the elimination of overdue fines feared to be a “moral hazard.” Eliminating overdue fines does not mean eliminating accountability. Customers would need to return their items before checking out new ones, and still pay for lost items. The head of The New York Public Library asked, “What is truly the greater moral hazard? Having fines or not having fines? In my view, teaching kids that the library is not an option for the poorest among them is absolutely unacceptable.”

Doesn’t the Library need the money generated from fines?
Fines and fees make up less than one percent of funding at Toledo Lucas County Public Library, and enforcing fines itself costs money for software and collection services as well as staff labor expenses. Managing overdue fines and helping customers who are confused or disenfranchised also takes librarian time that we would rather have spent helping customers. In short, we don’t rely on the money we receive from overdue fines to run the Library and the expenses don’t justify the activity.

Won’t people just keep books instead of returning them?
Customers who haven’t returned or renewed books won’t be able to check out additional books. Once items are two weeks overdue, no further materials can be checked out and customers that do not return items will be billed when the materials are four weeks overdue. The Library provides notices three days before materials are due, and at two weeks past due date. Beginning January 1, 2019, notices will also be provided on the due date and one week past due. TLCPL also offers easy online and mobile technology options for renewing books to help customers keep their accounts current. If materials are returned, there will not be an overdue fine.

Ohio Libraries that are now fine-free

  • Columbus Metropolitan Library
  • Dayton Metropolitan Library
  • Wood County District Public Library
  • Way Public Library
  • Stark County District Library
  • Westerville Public Library

No Overdue Fines Policy FAQ

Late materials
No overdue fines will be incurred once materials are returned.

Never-returned and damaged items
All cardholders will be responsible for never-returned and damaged items. Charges for never-returned or damaged items will be calculated at list price.

When will this take effect?
Beginning January 1, 2019, any borrowed items returned will not be charged overdue fines.

Does this mean my current overdue fines are being wiped away?
Our goal is to improve access and opportunity. If a customer has existing overdue fines, we invite them to speak with a staff member about returning any overdue items and updating the customer record.

Blocked or suspended Library cards
Toledo Lucas County Public Library cardholders who owe $10 or more for never-returned or damaged items will have their borrowing privileges blocked until their charges have been paid or reduced below $10. Cardholders who have items overdue by two weeks will have their borrowing privileges blocked until items are renewed or returned.

Collections agency
The Library uses the services of a collection agency to collect money for never-returned and damaged items when the obligation equals or exceeds $25. If an account is referred to a collection agency, an additional non-refundable charge of $10 is applied.

Approved by the Board of Trustees on September 28, 2018.