Fine Free Information

Why get rid of late fines?

Late fines are not effective. Other library systems have stopped charging late fines and shown that this has no impact on materials return rates. Once someone has a late fine, they are less likely to visit the library again. Getting rid of late fines can even increase use and returns of library materials.  Library staff trust that borrowers will return items on time so others may use them.

It’s good for our community. Late fines prevent people who cannot afford them from using the Library in the first place.  The elimination of late fines provides more equitable access for everyone in our community.

Fines are not a significant source of revenue. Fines accounted for less than 0.6% of the library’s total revenue in FY2019 and less than 0.4% in FY2020.  They are also not a reliable source of revenue as the use of eBooks and audiobooks increases, which are automatically returned and do not accrue late fines.

It’s good for our relationships. When you walk through our doors, we want to do our best to help you, not pester you about a late fine. Going fine free makes a trip to the library more pleasant for both you and our staff.

What it means for you:

  • You will no longer be charged a daily fine for most overdue items. As always, digital materials are checked in automatically with no late fines.
  • We will clear any late fines you currently owe from your account. You may still owe other library fees, including lost and damaged item charges.
  • You can still renew your item two times unless there is a hold on it.
  • You are still responsible for returning your items on time. We do want all items back, and other people may be waiting. We will suspend your library account if items are not returned 30 days after their due dates. When your account is suspended you cannot check out physical materials, like books or DVDs, use the public computers or access some of our digital services until your overdue items are returned.
  • We consider items overdue by 30 days or more to be lost, and will bill you for the replacement cost plus a processing fee and a $1 administrative fee.
  • Once you return an overdue item your account will be reinstated and replacement charges will be removed.
  • To help you remember to return items on time, you can sign up for notices by email or text. With Shoutbomb, receive text notifications about due dates, holds, and overdue items and renew items via text. To sign up, text “signup” to  (406) 215-4240. (Standard text messaging rates apply.)

What happens if I don't return Library materials?

We still want library items back and they still have due dates! If you keep an item 30 days past its due date, we will temporarily suspend your library account. That means you won’t be able to check out more items, use the public computers or use some of our digital media services until your late materials are returned.

If an item is not returned within 30 days after the due date, we will charge you for the cost to replace it plus a processing fee and $1 administrative fee.

What should I do if I want to keep something past its due date?

You can renew items up to two times if no one else is waiting. Please renew items you want to keep past their due date to avoid temporary account suspension and lost item fees. Log in to your account to renew items online. Items can’t be renewed if other people are waiting. Please return items that you can’t renew and place a new hold to check them out again.

Do any items have late fines?

A few.  Items like interlibrary loan materials, laptops, NASA backpacks, telescopes and other equipment do have late fines.  Please ask our staff if you have questions.

What happens to late fines I owed before August 3, 2020?

We are clearing all late fines owed as of August 3, 2020. We hope you will come use the library again if you owed late fines in the past! You may still owe other library fees, which include charges for lost or damaged items.

What should I do with very overdue Library materials I still have?

Please bring it back! Even if an item has been sitting on your shelf for years, return it and you can use the library again with no late fines.  Many of these items have been removed from our system, so please be sure to tell us that you are returning a long overdue item so we can be sure to remove the charges from your account.  A sheet of paper with your library card number and/or name tucked into the item is fine if you would prefer to use the book drop.

What can you do to help me keep track of due dates?

We send account notifications by email and text. If you are signed up for email notices and we have a valid email address, we will email you a reminder before items are due as well as periodically after their due date. You can choose to get notices by text as well. To sign up, text “signup” to  (406) 215-4240. (Standard text messaging rates apply.)

I like paying fines - I think of it as my donation to the Library. Can I still donate?

Yes! You can still make donations to the library at the desk or online, or to the Friends of the North Lake County Public Library or the North Lake County Library Foundation.  You can find donation information on our website or just ask us.  

How does this affect use with other libraries in the Partners system?

If you use a North Lake County Public Library card at other libraries that impose fines in the Partner’s system, you may be charged for overdue items. It will depend on that library’s policy.  If a card from another Partner library gets used at this library, their account will not be charged for overdue materials.  You will not be charged for Partner’s items that you check out from this library.

What is the timeline for the change?

We no longer charge late fines as of Monday, August 3, 2020. On that date, we will also clear any late fines you currently owe from your account. You may still owe other library fees, including lost or damaged item charges.