Fine Free

The Saint Paul Public Library is fine-free.

The library is fine free. That’s right! We don't charge fines on late items. This ensures that all people have access to library books and materials, which is our primary purpose as a public library.

What fine free means for you:

You will no longer receive a daily late fine on overdue items.

You are still responsible for returning your items. We do want all items back!

The library will send you a series of reminders to return your items.

Most items that are overdue by 35 days or more will be considered lost, and you will be billed for them. Lucky Day items, hotspots, and Book Club in a Bag sets are billed after they are 14 days overdue. If you return the items, the bill will be cleared from your account.

Your account will be referred to the library’s collections agency approximately one month after you receive a bill if your total bill is more than $30. This information is NOT reported to credit bureaus.

If you return your items after you have been referred to the collections agency, you will not have to pay your bill on those items, but you will be charged a $10 collections agency processing fee.

Why did the library go fine-free?

It’s good for our community. Our community is stronger and healthier when people have access to the programs, services, and materials they need to pursue their educational, career, family, and life goals. We hope this will encourage prior users to come back to the library and attract new users to experience our offerings.

Late fines are not effective. Studies have shown that small fines have no impact on return rates. According to “Removing Barriers to Access,” a Colorado State Library whitepaper: “The scant research on the impact of library fines and fees does not indicate a clear benefit to administering these polices and may be costly to enforce.

It’s fiscally responsible. Due to the rise in electronic materials (which do not accrue late fines) and other factors, fines are not a sustainable form of revenue for the library. Money collected from fines and fees has gone down steadily for the past 10 years.

Frequently Asked Questions

More About Fine-Free Libraries

Resources, case studies from other libraries, and updates.

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Fine-free libraries: St. Paul reflects after five years...

It’s been five years since St. Paul Public Library dropped overdue fines, and patrons are still finding relief at the front desk.

As libraries drop late fees, long-overdue books return

Minnesota libraries went fine-free, then waited to see: Would patrons hoard all the books?

How Fines and Fees Reform Became a Priority for Cities

Dozens of cities are changing how they collect fines and fees. How did this movement grow?

St. Paul libraries see a boost after going fine-free

A year later, circulation has grown 1.8% citywide, with some branches seeing double-digit increases.

SPPL named a Leading Innovator for Fine Free

Saint Paul Public Library named a Leading Innovator for its elimination of daily late fines in early 2019.

After dropping late fees, St. Paul libraries see a boost

Nine months in, the Saint Paul Public Library's fine-free experiment appears to be thriving.  "By every measure we had hoped…

Pioneer Press: Unblocking cards boosted library use

Ditching library fines this winter resulted in the first circulation boost for the St. Paul Public Library system in years.

Download the Fact Sheet

Download a PDF fact sheet with key information about this proposal.

Presentation: Eliminating Late Fines

Download the slide deck on Eliminating Late Fines at Saint Paul Public Library.

Watch: Celebrate Fine Free

Video highlights from the library's Fine Free celebration at Sun Ray Library on January 19, 2019.

Star Tribune: Library late fees scrapped

Patrons in St. Paul no longer have to pay late fees, and the policy gets rave reviews.

Saint Paul Paul Library goes fine-free

The St. Paul Public Library system has officially done away with overdue fines — but you’d still get charged for materials you don’t return.

Saint Paul eliminates library late fines

Late fines will now be a thing of the past. Books and other materials that are lost or stolen will still require repayment.

Mayor Carter's plan to erase late fines

Melvin Carter has been at the lead in St. Paul for nearly a year. But rarely has Jana Shortal seen him as jazzed as he is about breaking…

Council expected to approve 2019 budget

The St. Paul City Council is expected to approve it's 2019 budget Wednesday.

Eau Claire library fines to be waived

Talk about a clean slate. Fines owed for overdue L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library books will be waived at the start of next year.
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