How to Keep Your Library Fines Low

How to Keep Your Library Fines Low

Check Out a Few Items at a Time

Your library may allow you to check out 100 items at a time.  However, this may not be ideal if you are not positive you will be able to return them on time.  After all, a nominal fee applied to 100 items is going to add up fast!  So be realistic and check out what you think you will really be able to read and return in the specified time period, remembering that you may not be able to renew all your items if someone else requests them.

Keep Your Items in a Safe Place

Parents often worry about having their kids check out a bunch of materials because they are aware that three kids checking out ten books apiece could result in 30 books being charged fines.  To try to lower fines, many have a designated library book area where the books must be kept or even read.  This way, they aren’t being charged late fees on books they can’t find at home.

This rule also applies to eating and reading.  Keep liquids or other sticky substances away from your books.  Setting a book on the counter near coffee or water can be disastrous.  And do not place books in a bag or in the car with a water bottle that may leak.  Treat your books with care and you hopefully won’t have to pay a replacement fee!

Don’t DroP your Books and Run

If you borrowed 50 books and return them all at once, you may want to watch the librarian return the items rather than drop them and run.  Once the librarian has finished, ask them to view your account to see if any books are still listed as being checked out.  If so, the librarian should recheck the pile to see if you truly returned it.  If you have not, you know it’s somewhere at home and you can renew it on the spot.

Use the Book drop

Items dropped in the book drop before the library opens are typically backdated to the previous day.  So if your items were due on April 9, if you drop them on April 10 before the book drop is collected, you shouldn’t be charged for being a day late.

Use the Library E-Resources

E-books return themselves once the loan expires, so you never have to worry about accruing fines on them.  Problem solved!

Ask About Vacation Loans

Some libraries will increase the length of a loan if you explain that you are going on vacation and will not be able to return the book within the normal loan period.  This is a good way to stock up on beach reads without worrying about accruing late fees!

Call the Library and Explain Your Situation

Let’s imagine that you have used up all your renewals on an item, but you know you can’t get the book back on time.  Maybe you lost it.  Maybe you are in the hospital.  Or maybe you had to travel for an emergency.  Call the library.  Explain what has happened.  Ask what they can do.  You’ll never know if you don’t ask.

How do you keep your books in order to avoid late fees?

24 thoughts on “How to Keep Your Library Fines Low

  1. Briana | Pages Unbound says:

    Tangentially related:

    My library has a bookcase of “honor books” that do not need to be officially checked out; you take them and return them whenever you want on the honor system.

    My library also had a “pay it forward” program for a while; people could donate money that other patrons could use to pay their fines.

    My library is moving towards a grace period. You will not be charged for the first four days your item is late. On the fifth day, however, you will be charged as if you are five days late, not as if you are one day late.

    These are all things you can consider proposing to your own library if you want to help other patrons avoid or handle feeds.


  2. (Danielle) Books, Vertigo and Tea says:

    Our library allows extensions which can be submitted online if there are no wait list. It helps a lot! I am so compulsive though that I am never late haha. My son has to be watched though. So we use the “keep all the books together in one place” trick 😊


  3. Kelly | Another Book in the Wall says:

    You provided some really great advice! When I return large piles of books, I’ll definitely consider returning them directly to the librarian, rather than placing them in the book drop. I’ve been charged before for books that I am sure I returned well before the due date, but were never recorded. Returning them to the librarian and making sure it’s correctly documented sounds like a great fix for this issue! ❤


  4. ofmariaantonia says:

    Yes, we also have the drop-box-back-dating thing at our library. It’s saved me a couple times when I realize “Oh no! That book is due tomorrow and it’s already almost midnight.”

    I’m usually pretty good about avoiding fees. The worst fee I ever had to pay was for a DVD (our late fees for DVDs are $2/day). I thought it was due on Friday, but it was really due on Tuesday. Or something like that. And to add insult to injury, the DVD wasn’t even a good movie! In fact, it was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.


  5. jewelianawrites says:

    I keep them all in the same place and I check the dates online. I do usually have about 40 out at one time because I’m super greedy sometimes, but I generally return on time unless it’s a really good book I haven’t gotten to, then I’ll just pay the fines since it’s only 10 cents a day. It’s so hard to only check out what I’m going to read because I DNF a lot of books, especially if I’m not in the mood for the genre at the time.


  6. Jenna @ Falling Letters says:

    These are some good tips I hadn’t thought of before! My main strategy is to renew books right when I get the e-mail reminder that they’re due in a few days, when I know I won’t get to the library before that date (as opposed to just deleting the e-mail and ‘remembering’ to do it later…).


  7. Sammie says:

    Lots of great tips here! Both my daughter and I have designated book areas. Mine’s on my desk, and hers is with her workbooks, so we always know where to look. Our library also prints out a receipt when you check books out with all the books you have out and their due dates, so we always make sure to tuck that into the book on the top of the pile (and swap it out when we start a new book) so we make sure we remember when they’re due. 🙂 Makes it a bit easier, too, that we have a standing date every Friday to go to the library.

    Our library also has a really neat system. Since we live in a pretty impoverished county and the library does a lot of local outreach, they also accept non-perishable goods every Friday in exchange for fines. 1 item = $1. Goes for a good cause, and people are a lot less reluctant to “pay” that way, too.


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