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An Overdue Change

It’s no joke! Effective April 1, 2024, the West Bloomfield Library is proud to be part of a growing list of libraries across the country that have gone fine free. Around 58% of Michigan library systems no longer charge overdue fines on print materials according to 2023 state reports. Here’s why:  

  • Going fine free is fiscally responsible. Due to the rise in eLibrary checkouts, automated renewals, and other factors, less than 0.5% of the library’s revenue last year was from fines. The library estimates it spends more than it receives to collect fines due to IT costs, including credit card processing fees and payment terminals. Fine collection also consumes considerable staff time that could be better spent on other public services. Fines are no longer a sustainable source of library revenue.
  • Fines don’t bring materials back more quickly. The few existing studies on library card fines show no evidence that charging overdue fines drives more people to return library materials on time. In fact, many libraries that eliminate fines report the opposite. Patrons still need to return items on time and will receive due date reminders.
  • Eliminating fines does not eliminate personal responsibility. Recent research suggests that overdue fines don’t teach personal responsibility; instead, fines create a barrier to library use that separates people who can afford to keep library items longer from those who cannot. If an item is more than 21 days overdue, it will be marked as lost and a replacement fee will be charged to the patron’s account unless the item is returned. Patrons are unable to borrow additional library materials if they owe over $30 in unpaid lost, unreturned, and/or damaged material fees.
  • Fines negatively impact our communities. Overdue fines most strongly deter those who stand to benefit most from library services, including young people and low-income households. Assessing fines for late materials is inequitable, disproportionately affecting low-income families and penalizing youth for their parents’ time and financial pressures. Fines also cause embarrassment and anxiety around library experiences and generate unnecessary conflict between staff and patrons.
  • Dropping fines increases use. By removing this financial barrier, many libraries have welcomed back patrons who previously had access blocked due to too many late fines. One study shows a fear of overdue fines prevents some low-income families from even signing up for a library card.


The library’s 2023 Community Needs Assessment found that some West Bloomfield residents see their overdue fines as a donation to the library. Though payment for late materials is no longer expected, donations to the library are always welcome.


What will happen to the overdue fines on my account?
Unpaid overdue fines assessed prior to April 1, 2024 are forgiven. Fines paid prior to April 1, 2024 will not be refunded.

What’s the difference between fines and fees?
Overdue fines are daily charges libraries apply to items not returned by their due date. Fines will no longer be charged at the West Bloomfield Library. Fees are the charges applied to items that are unreturned, lost, or damaged. Fees are still in effect.

What are fees, and when do they apply?
If an item is unreturned, lost, or damaged, borrowers must pay the replacement cost for the item. The library will also accept a new copy exact duplicate of a West Bloomfield Library item plus a $2 processing fee. Replacement costs are assessed at 21 days overdue; they are removed upon return of that item. A patron who pays for a lost West Bloomfield Library item may have the cost refunded if it is returned in good condition within 2 years of payment. Other libraries may set higher lost or damaged fees for items loaned from their collections, including through MeL.

What happens if I owe over $30 in fees?
The accumulation of a total of $30 in fees will automatically trigger a block on a library card. A patron must pay to bring their account charges below the $30 threshold to have their library privileges restored. All fees must be paid when renewing a library card.

Does this apply to all library materials (books, video games, DVDs, etc.)?
Yes! Some libraries are fine free in certain formats but not in others. The West Bloomfield Library is now fine free across all library materials for all West Bloomfield Library users.

How do library renewals work?
Many West Bloomfield Library materials automatically renew before the due date up to a year as long as there are no holds. To be eligible for automatic renewals, the borrower must be in good standing and provide an email address. You can also renew materials online or by calling the library; you will need your library card number on hand.

Some collections have renewal limitations. Book Group Kits are not eligible for renewal. Experience Kits, Health and Wellness Kits, and hotspots do not renew automatically and may only be renewed once. Discovery Tablets, Literacy Kits, video games, and puzzles do not renew automatically and may only be renewed twice. eLibrary materials are subject to different renewal limits as defined in the app.

What will happen to the library’s rental books?
Rental books are no longer available. The library maintains a lower than average hold-to-copy ratio, and patrons who check out rental books are often confused by the fines accrued.

Further Reading

Read the library’s updated circulation policies.

American Library Association. Resolution on Monetary Library Fines as a Form of Social Inequity (2019).

Canton Public Library. We Eliminated Late Fees…Then What? (2024).

Colorado State Library. Removing Barriers to Access: Eliminating Library Fines and Fees on Children’s Materials (2016).

Ontario Library Association. Fines Free Libraries (2022).

San Francisco Public Library. Long Overdue: Eliminating Fines on Overdue Materials to Improve Access to San Francisco Public Library (2019).

Unrein, S. Overdue Fines: Advantages, Disadvantages, and How Eliminating Them Can Benefit Public Libraries (2020).

Wacek, D. Free is Key: Library Fines and Access | TEDxUWLaCrosse (2018).