No Fines Equals Better Customer Service

Posted on December 21, 2018

by Library News

Returning Library books late or losing them altogether is something many people have experienced firsthand. From returning that stack of picture books late, to forgetting to return the DVD that’s still in the player – we’ve all been there at some point. Believe it or not, even George Washington, the first President of the United States, failed to return two volumes he borrowed way back in 1789. Fines for late books have always been part of the library experience. But should they be?

Late Fines Create Barriers to Access

While many people assume overdue fines serve as a strong motivator to return Library materials on time, the reality is not so simple. For many families in the Lucas County community, overdue fines are a real barrier to access. And for those who can afford to pay fines, the small fee is not a strong incentive to return materials on time.

To improve access and opportunity in our community, the Toledo Lucas County Public Library (TLCPL) will be eliminating overdue fines effective Jan. 1, 2019.

The Effectiveness of Charging Overdue Fines

The negative consequences of overdue fines simply outweigh the positive aspects of eliminating them for communities across the country. In fact, library systems that have phased out charging late fees have seen increases in the amount of materials borrowed, without any significant increase in materials not returned.

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
  • Toledo Lucas County Public Library
  • Westerville Public Library

What about Accountability?

Getting rid of overdue fines does not mean eliminating accountability. Customers with overdue materials will be expected to renew the items, return them, or pay for lost items, before checking out new ones. 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 the Toledo Lucas County Public Library. Enforcing, collecting, managing and explaining fines to customers who are confused or upset over fines costs money. It also takes a lot of time for Library staff, time that would be better served helping customers in more positive ways. 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 ones. 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 reminders to return by phone, email or text three days before materials are due, and at two weeks past due date. Beginning Jan. 1, 2019, reminders will also be provided the day after 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.


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 Jan. 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.

Learn more about our no fines policy.

Expand Your Knowledge

Articles Discussing Library Fines

An Overdue Discussion: Two Takes on the Library-Fine Debate American Libraries Magazine

Doing Fine(s)? | Fines & Fees Library Journal

Read More, Pay Less: Some Libraries Are Eliminating Fines for Overdue Books The Penny Hoarder

More Libraries are Going Fine-Free. That’s Good for Everyone. Washington Post

Fine Owed by George Washington for Overdue Library Books Now $300,000 The Guardian

This Library System Is Willing to Forgive Your Fine…Just This Once The Smithsonian

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