We’ve Gone Fine Free!

October 17, 2022 | Steve Powell
Person holding books "Drop off the books, we've dropped the fines"

In 2023, the Orange County Library System turns 100 years old, and we have a gift to share with the community to help us celebrate this milestone. We have eliminated all overdue fines, effective Sunday, October 16. Even better – on that same date, we also canceled all existing overdue charges on library cardholder accounts.

This has been a long time coming for us. The elimination of overdue charges and debt is part of a nationwide trend in public library service. Research shows that overdue fines are a barrier that prevents those who need libraries the most from using them, and the American Library Association has recommended that all libraries with the ability to do so should consider removing overdue fines as a way to expand services in the community. Many library systems across the nation have already made this important change, including all the largest library systems in the state of Florida.

Although overdue charges are being removed, materials will still have due dates, and we will continue to notify people that they are expected to return them on time, with the expectation that some materials might be a few days late. If an overdue item is not returned after 14 days, the customer’s card will be blocked, and they will not be able to borrow additional materials until the overdue items are returned. And customers will still be responsible for lost or damaged materials – as long as we get items back in good condition, we won’t charge anyone for returning them late.

This change fully aligns with the library’s mission: Adding to quality of life by creating a learning environment and experiences that foster personal growth and development.

I believe that the decision to go fine-free will be a game-changer in our community. It will allow us to reinstate library cards for hundreds of children in Orange County, giving them a chance to access reading materials and resources that promote literacy. It will reinvigorate our libraries by rebuilding relationships with customers who stopped using library services because they were unable to pay an overdue fine or were simply embarrassed to address the fines on their accounts. It will also bring us in line with best practices already being embraced by libraries across the state and country.

I am truly grateful to our Trustees for taking this step and giving us this opportunity to better serve the residents of Orange County. I can’t think of a better way to kick off our 100 Year Celebration.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why did the library decide to stop charging overdue fines?

A: The accumulation of overdue fines has become a financial hardship to many library customers and prevents them from using the library. To remove this barrier and provide more access to materials, resources, and services, the library is no longer charging overdue fines for materials kept past their due date.

Q: If the Library doesn’t have overdue fines, won’t everyone just keep the materials?

A: No. Customers are still responsible for the return of materials they check out. Items that are not returned or renewed will be charged to the account 14 days after the due date. Customers with charged materials on their accounts will not be able to use their library cards until they return or pay for the charged items.

Q: Why isn’t the library holding people accountable for overdue material?

A: Our focus is to provide more access to materials, resources, and services, so we are moving to no longer charging overdue fines. Customers are still responsible for the items checked out to their library cards.

Q: I just paid my fines last week; can I get my money back?

A: The library board of trustees approved the change in policy regarding overdue fines on October 13, 2022. We are unable to offer refunds for fines paid before this date.

Q: Do items still have due dates?

A: Yes, items are checked out for 21 days. We recently implemented automatic renewal of eligible items and increased the number of times an item can be renewed up to five (5) if no one else is waiting for that specific title.

Q: How will I know when my items are due?

A: You will continue to receive printed due-date receipts when items are checked out and courtesy email notifications. You may also enroll in text reminders, log in to your library account or call our customer service line at 407-835-7323.

Q. What happens if I don’t return items on time?

A: Accounts with overdue materials will be blocked 14 days after the due date. The accounts will be unblocked once the items are returned.

Q. What about my old overdue fines?

A: If your items have been returned to the library, then the overdue fines were waived.

Q. I found an item that I’m being charged for as “lost.” Can I bring it back?

A: Yes! We will happily accept items, no matter how long overdue, and all charges will be removed from your account.

Q. My card expired. How do I renew it?

A: You can call us at 407-835-7323, or you can fill out the online library card renewal form. 

Q: What happens if I lose an item?

A: You will be charged for the replacement cost of the item and will be unable to borrow additional materials or utilize library services until your account balance is paid.

Q: What happens if I damage an item?

A: You are still responsible for the care of items you check out. If items are damaged in your care, the replacement cost of that item will be charged to your library card account. You will be unable to borrow additional materials until your account balance is paid.

Q: Will I still have to pay for copies, faxes, or to reserve a room?

A: Yes, this change in policy only impacts overdue fines for borrowed materials.

Q: Will the loss of revenue hurt the library? How can I help support the library?

A: The popularity of our digital lending services and the implementation of automatic renewals have caused the overall amount of overdue fines collected to steadily decrease over the past decade. The loss of overdue fine revenue will not have a significant impact on library operations. Please consider volunteering or joining the Friends of the Library to support the library and its important initiatives.

Q. Can you share some resources regarding going fine free with me?

A. This change is part of a nationwide movement, guided by recommendations from the American Library Association, that aims to increase access to public library resources. https://www.ala.org/aboutala/sites/ala.org.aboutala/files/content/Resolu... https://www.urbanlibraries.org/resources/fine-free-map


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