We're Now Fine Free

We're now FINE FREE! Bring back your overdue books, movies, and music to borrow more.

Ames Public Library is joining hundreds of public libraries across the country that no longer charge overdue fines for items that are returned late!

This is one step in our commitment to providing equitable access to Library materials and services.

What’s the Same:

  • Items you check out from the Library have a due date. Some checkouts can be renewed if you need to keep them longer.
  • If you keep your item past its due date, the Library will notify you.
  • If you don’t return the items, they are considered lost. Your account will then show a charge for the price of the item.
  • If you return the item, those charges are removed. If charges on your account reach the limit, you will no longer be able to check out items from the Library.
  • If you damage an item or lose part of an item, you may be charged for repair or replacement costs.
  • E-books and other electronic resources are returned automatically, so there are no overdue fines on them.

What’s Different:

  • If you bring back your items, you don’t owe any “overdue” charges. That’s it!

Fine Free FAQs

Equity & Access

Overdue fines create unequal access to Library materials and services. Overdue fines pose little burden to people with higher incomes, but they pose a barrier—sometimes insurmountable—to people with lower incomes. The people who are most in need of free access to information and materials are also the most likely to have their account blocked due to unpaid overdue fines.

Fines Don’t Work

Studies and the experiences of other fine-free libraries tell us that people don’t bring their materials back  earlier when they know they will be charged an overdue fine.

Other Negative Outcomes

While overdue fines don’t effectively encourage people to bring materials back on time, they do bring about some unintended outcomes.

  • People become ashamed of their overdue fines, feel less welcome at the Library, and sometimes stop using the Library entirely.
  • People with less ability to pay fines are blocked from using Library materials.
  • Staff time is spent collecting overdue fines, communicating with customers about charges on their accounts, reconciling accounts, etc. rather than helping customers find materials and information.

The Library will use the same strategies to get materials back as it has in the past. The Library will continue to send courtesy reminders before items are due and regular reminders when items become overdue. If an item is lost, customers will receive a bill in the mail. Library staff will also continue to help you keep track of your account by phone and in person.

Account Blocks

Library accounts are blocked from checking out any more materials when they accrue charges above the limit. That means if you have several items that are overdue long enough to be considered "lost," you will not be able to check out additional items until you return or replace the overdue items.

Debt Collection

Ames Public Library contracts with a debt collection service. If the balance on an account become too high and the account holder does not respond to Library communications, the debt collection agency attempts to contact the account holder to settle the account, either by returning materials or paying for replacements.

The Budget

Fines and fees make up less than 2% of the Library’s operating budget, and only a portion of that is overdue fines. The Library Board of Trustees, Director, and Staff feel that the benefits of going Fine Free far outweigh the loss of revenue and have adjusted the budget to accommodate the change.

Redistributing Staff Time

Removing overdue fines greatly reduces the staff time needed to collect overdue fines, interact with customer about their fines, reconcile accounts, etc. This means that staff can focus even more on providing excellent services, programs, and materials to our community.

Donations Welcome!

If you’re feeling bad for keeping your books too long, or if you simply want to support the Library, there are many options! The Ames Public Library Friends Foundation takes donations in any amount, which are used to enhance the Library’s collections, programs, and services. There is also a donation box in the lobby; Feel free to use it as a swear jar, to appease your overdue items guilt, or to unload those coins from your purse or pockets!

The Library is committed to equity and will be removing past overdue fines from accounts. Charges for lost or damaged items will remain.