Fine Free FAQ

We believe in providing access to information and library services for ALL.

Eliminating fines for overdue materials means more people in our community have greater access to the library’s vital materials, resources, and services. Late fines, no matter how small, are a very real and significant burden for low-income individuals, children, and families. These types of financial barriers can discourage many people who rely on the library, which means they can’t access books required for schoolwork, use public computers or job resources, or simply have a safe, open, welcoming space to visit. Library experts have found that charging overdue fines inhibits access to library materials and services. Studies indicate that even modest penalties deter people from registering for a library card or using the library because of the risk of incurring fines. Rather than motivating borrowers to return items on time, fines act as an inequitable barrier to service, disproportionately impacting minors, students, and community members with limited financial resources.

Frequently Asked Questions about being Fine-Free

What does it mean to be fine-free?
It means exactly what it says, we are free of fines and we do not impose late charges on our materials. The Ontario Public Library (OPL) Board of Trustees and staff want to ensure that everyone has access to the library’s resources in as barrier-free way as possible. Fines also tend to penalize more vulnerable individuals or families who can’t afford them. We want ALL people to be able to use our resources without money creating a barrier.

Why be fine-free?
It’s good for our community! Our community is stronger and healthier when people have access to programs, services, and materials they need to pursue their educational, career, family, and life goals. Libraries are a place open to anyone and everyone. We hope this will encourage prior users to come back to the library and attract new users to experience our offerings.

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

Libraries that have adopted fine-free policies found that:

  • Library card registrations increased
  • Borrowing of materials increased
  • More library items were returned
  • Students returned to the library to use homework resources
  • Staff time was redirected from fines handling to patron-focused services

Have other libraries eliminated late fines?

Yes! In the U.S., over 500 libraries have adopted fine-free policies, and the number is growing every day.

Do any items have late fees?

Very few types, but yes. Owing to costs and value to the community our cake pans, park passes, and videogames incur fines. The fines are $1.00 per day.

What happens if I have current outstanding fines on my account?

If you have outstanding late fines currently on your card, they will be completely expunged starting May 2, 2022. Due to processing this may take a while, but eventually all OPL members will be free from past late fees.

What happens if I have current outstanding lost or damaged fines on my account?

Replacement costs attributed to lost or damaged items will not be waived. However, if you have charges for lost or damaged materials, please speak with us and we will work with you to find an equitable solution. We want everyone to be able to use the library’s services and materials.

Won’t late fines keep people from returning items on time?

Late fines are largely ineffective. Studies have shown that small fines have no impact on return rates. Once someone has a late fine, they are less likely to visit the library again. Libraries that have removed late fees report few adverse effects on material return rates. The public library model is based upon a trusting relationship between borrowers and a valued community resource. Library staff trusts that borrowers will return items on time, so others may use them. Other libraries have even experienced an increase in return rates after the adoption of fine-free policies.

Will there still be due dates?

Yes. The library still has a set time limit for materials to be borrowed and we expect items to be returned on time. Be respectful of your fellow library users who may be waiting for items to be returned. Bring back materials when they are due so that everyone has equal access to our collections. Fine Free does not mean

What if I borrow items from another OWWL library?

Fines are set by the lending library. If an item is borrowed from a library that still imposes fines, you will be assessed that late fine. OPL is not charging late fines on items we own or check out from other OWWL libraries.

What happens if someone doesn’t return their items?

If items are not returned by their due date, they will be considered late and must be renewed or returned. If five or more items are overdue, borrowing privileges at OPL will be suspended until the overdue items are returned. Members will be sent overdue reminders asking them to return the items via email at 1, 2, and 4 weeks. If items are overdue by eight (8) weeks, members will be charged for the replacement cost of the item. At that point, members will be sent a replacement cost bill including a service charge.

Members may be contacted by telephone during or after any loan period, and informed the item(s) is needed at the Library and must be returned within a week. This action is referred to as “recalling” an item(s). Library membership and borrowing practices rely on exercising good faith in borrowing and returning materials.

How will this affect the library’s budget?

While the library is always carefully watching its bottom line, any loss of overdue fine revenue is tiny compared with the good this new policy will do for our community. Overdue fines accounted for about 0.008% of the library’s overall revenue budget and going fine-free will not significantly impact the budget moving forward.

In addition, due to the rise in electronic materials (which do not accrue late fines), along with other factors, fines simply are not a sustainable form of revenue for the library. With “auto-renew” extending due dates, late fines were minimized by items being automatically renewed.

Is there another way to financially support the library?

Yes! Please consider donating directly to The Friends of the Ontario Public Library. All donations are tax-deductible as allowed by law and go toward supporting library’s services and programs. Check Friends here for more information.

View our Circulation Policy

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