Fine Free Frequently Asked Questions

Why Eliminate Fines?

We want all patrons to have access to the library. Research shows 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 know that life happens sometimes and it can be difficult to return items on time. But we don’t want overdue fines to discourage patrons from the invaluable free technology, literacy, and lifelong learning resources that our libraries offer.

How Does It Work?

Due Dates
Every item checked out will still have a due date. Please remember that someone else may be waiting for an item, so bring it back on time. You will be receiving frequent reminders about overdue materials.

Overdue Items Only
Our fine free initiative applies only to overdue items. Replacement costs for damaged or lost items will still be charged to cardholder accounts.

Blocked Accounts
If an item is 21 days overdue, the cardholder’s account will be blocked from checking out additional materials. If the item is not returned within 45 days of the due date, the cardholder will be charged the replacement cost for the unreturned item.

I have a card with old late fines on it. Can I still use it?
Yes! All existing overdue fines have been removed from your account. Some patrons may still see charges for lost or damaged items. Please get in touch with us if you have questions about your account.

Fines have been removed, so why do I still see a balance?
Previous late fines have been removed, but other charges, such as for lost items, printing, room reservations, etc. are still on patron accounts. Please get in touch with us if you have questions about your account.

What about the lost revenue that overdue fines generated? How can I support the library?
Overdue fines only account for less than one-half of a percent of our budget, so the financial impact is small. Anyone who would like to donate to support innovative programming and resources may make a gift to the JCPL Foundation. We appreciate your support!

What about hold times? Will I have to wait forever for my item?
Good news! Most fine free libraries report that a majority of patrons still return their materials on time, and waitlists aren’t affected. Don’t worry - library staff will be monitoring the effect on waitlists and adjust accordingly. And we always encourage patrons to return materials on time so others can enjoy them.

How will the Library get people to return borrowed materials?
“No fines” does not mean “no responsibility.” Patrons are still responsible for returning materials on time. Accounts with unpaid charges of $15 or more, or with materials that are more than 21 days overdue will be blocked from checking out additional materials until the items have been returned or replaced.

Why isn’t JCPL removing lost item charges?
The Library’s collection - the books, movies, and other materials - is a core library service. It is a substantial investment of taxpayer funds, and to be good stewards of these funds, we must enforce compensation for lost or damaged items.