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Fine Free

Buchanan District Library is now Fine Free!


We understand that sometimes life gets in the way, and it can result in materials returned late to the library. And when that means late fines, people can become frustrated enough to not want to borrow again from the library. We want everyone to be able to access our materials, so we decided to stop charging late fines as of October 1, 2019. This also means that we’ve forgiven the fines already on our patrons’ accounts.

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Why did we decide to make this change? Libraries are about providing access, and eliminating late fines is one way to ensure equitable access for everyone in our community. Going Fine Free is a growing trend in American libraries, resulting in increased visits and circulation. And that’s exactly what we want! We all benefit from a curious, engaged, and well-informed community.

The Buchanan District Library believes in free and equal access for all. That includes free access to books, movies, games, and everything else you can check out with your library card. And now that means that when life gets in the way and you return items a few days late, you can do so without worrying about overdue fines. Even if you have an overdue item that prevents you from checking more items out, just return the late item and you will be back to borrowing! 

So how does borrowing books and other materials from the library work without fines?

Patrons should make a habit of returning items on or before the due date because it’s the responsible thing to do and keeps our library running smoothly. If an item is gone too long, we’ll mark it as lost, and it may prevent you from checking out more materials. As soon as you return the item, you’re back to borrowing without the burden of late fees! If the item is truly lost or destroyed, we will ask that you pay to replace it, the same as we always have.

To read our new circulation policy, click here.

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Buchanan District Library was able to go Fine Free thanks in part to a grant from the Michigan Gateway Community Foundation. These funds will offset the lost revenue in our first Fine-Free year, but going forward, we need to increase our fundraising efforts to make this change sustainable. If you would like to show your support for the library and help us ensure access to all members of our community, please click the button below to make a donation.


Below are some other frequently asked questions, and links to more information about the Fine-Free movement.


Fine Free FAQ


What’s the difference between fines and fees?

Fines are a daily penalty for returning something late. It has been shown that fines are not effective in encouraging the timely return of materials, and they unfairly impact low-income populations. This is why we decided to stop charging fines.

Fees are replacement charges assessed for true material loss for unreturned or damaged items, and may include fees resulting from collection referral. Fees are still included as part of our circulation policy. The library has to purchase all the materials you see on our shelves, and if something is lost or destroyed, we have to pay to replace it. These costs can really add up, so we ask that if you lose or damage our materials, you help us replace them.

If my fines have been forgiven, why do I still owe the library money?

Overdue fines for late returns have been eliminated; however, patrons who have lost or damaged materials or have collection fees may need to settle their account to reinstate borrowing privileges. Stop in the library to talk to our staff if you have a question about fees on your account. We want to work with you as much as possible to make sure you can use the library.

What happens if I don't return my items by the due date?

Once an item is overdue by a certain number of days, you won’t be able to check out any new items until you return the overdue items.

Will I be charged anything?

You won't be charged overdue fines for late returns, but keep in mind that once an item is marked as lost, you may be billed replacement fees for those items at that point. Check our circulation policy for more details.

Click here to view our Circulation Policy

I didn't really lose these items— can I still bring them back?

Yes!  Please do so as soon as possible. Those replacement fees will automatically drop off your account and you'll be back to borrowing.

So, no matter how late I return items, I'll never be charged a fee?

Well, no. If you wait too long, your account may be referred to a collection agency.  We want our stuff back so other patrons can check it out too!  At that point a $10 fee is assessed to cover costs we incur pursuing collection action. Also, once an item has been replaced you will still be charged the replacement cost even if you bring it back. We make every effort to contact people and get our items back before we replace them. Please make sure your information is up to date with the library so you don't miss any communication from us.

How much money did the library make from late fees?

In 2018, fines accounted for $2672.70 in revenue. Thanks to a grant from the Michigan Gateway Community Foundation, we have the funds to replace that revenue in 2019, but going forward, we need to increase our fundraising efforts. If you want to make a donation to the library, click the donate button above. We appreciate your support!

How was the decision made to go fine free?

Eliminating late fines is a growing trend among libraries, though it is less common in our area. This year, the American Library Association released a Resolution on Monetary Library Fines as a Form of Social Inequity, and “urge(d) libraries to scrutinize their practices of imposing fines on library patrons and actively move towards eliminating them.” The resolution also compels governing bodies to strengthen their funding support so libraries are not dependent on fines as a source of revenue. You can read the full resolution here. 

Buchanan District Library joins a nation-wide movement to end library fines. Studies from libraries around the country (and the world) have shown that library fines are not effective as a mechanism to encourage timely return of materials, and instead serve as an economic barrier to the use of library materials and services. In addition, eliminating fines has been shown to increase library usage. The more we learned, the more it seemed obvious that the right thing to do was stop charging our patrons late fines.

For more information about the Fine Free movement, check out these links.