Fine free library

We believe in access for everyone

  • Multnomah County Library is now fine free! 
  • Everyone in this community should have access to library books, materials and services. 
  • Going fine free is the right step in removing barriers to helping people use the public library. 
  • Late fines, even as little as 25 cents per day, are a burden on people who rely on library access the most. 
  • Some people avoid using the library when they can’t pay fines or fees on overdue or missing items.

Read more about this policy change and how it affects you. 

Why go fine free

It puts our community first. Our communities thrive when people have access to the programs, services, and materials they need to pursue their goals or interests. People should be able to use the library without worrying that they will be judged because of overdue fines. 

Advances racial equity. Library fines worsen existing inequities that disproportionately impact people of color and low-income communities. Read more from the Urban Libraries Council about how eliminating fines advances racial equity

Treats print and digital materials the same. Digital materials, including ebooks and audiobooks, do not accrue late fines.

Library fines are a decreasing part of the overall budget. Due to the growing popularity of digital materials and the past elimination of youth fines, library revenue from overdue fines has been steadily declining in recent years.

FAQ

I have current fines on my account. Are those being cleared? 
Yes. All accounts will be cleared of overdue fines as of July 1, 2020. If you have questions about your account, please contact us

Won’t I have to wait longer to get my holds because fines take away the incentive to return materials on time?
Most libraries that have gone fine free did not report an increase in later returns. In contrast, many report more materials are returned. If materials are not returned 49 days after the due date, patrons will be charged replacement costs. 

Will there still be due dates?
Yes. Library materials will still have due dates. Items will renew automatically before they are due, as long as there are no holds on the items. You will receive a notice if items need to be returned to the library. Patrons will be charged a replacement cost for items that aren’t returned within 49 days of the due date. Replacement charges are cleared when the items are returned. 

How does eliminating fines impact the library’s budget? 
Library fines made up a very small part of the library’s budget. The library has collected less fines each year because of the rising popularity of digital materials (which don’t accrue fines) and the past elimination of youth fines. 

I’ve always thought of paying my fines as my donation to the library. Can I still donate?
Yes. You can make your gift through The Library Foundation, an independent nonprofit which supports the work of Multnomah County Library. 

What is the difference between a fine and a fee?
The library charged late fines on items returned after their due dates. The library will still charge some fees, such as for replacing lost items, and for some services such as printing, making copies or sending books by mail

What is automatic renewal? Why is the library using this feature?
Automatic renewal saves you time and effort. It means that every library user will have the same basic renewal services, without needing access to technology or the internet.

Items that can be renewed will be renewed automatically for up to 50 renewals. If items can’t be renewed, such as items with holds waiting, you will receive a notice three days before the due date. 

Automatic renewal does not apply to digital materials, including ebooks, audiobooks, digital magazines, or streaming video. It also does not apply to interlibrary loan materials.

You can return your items any time. Contact us if you are not able to return your items due to COVID-19 or if you have questions about the automatic renewal service.