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No More Overdue Fines!

Sometimes it’s hard to return materials to the library. Schedules change; work interferes; or the weather turns nasty. In short, life gets in the way. But being fined for late returns can be frustrating enough to make people not want to borrow again from the library. The Denton Public Library wants people to check out books, movies, music, and more, so we set out to change the way we do business, and we think you’ll be pleased.

Beginning October 1, 2019, the Denton Public Library will discontinue charging overdue fines for late returns.

We’re even removing most customers’ existing overdue fine balances so they can start fresh. That means when things get hectic and you return items a few days late, you can do so without worrying about overdue fines. Even if you have an overdue item that prevents you from checking more items out, just return the book and you will be back to borrowing!

Why the change?

Libraries are about providing access, and eliminating overdue fines is one more way we’re increasing access to our collections and services. Going fine free is a growing trend in American libraries, resulting in increased visits and circulation. That’s music to a librarian’s ears.

The Denton Public Library believes in free and equal access for all. That includes free access to books, movies, music and everything else you can check out with your library card. Plus, access has a dividend for Denton—we all benefit from a curious and engaged community. Increasing library use and material circulation is a win-win for all.

So how do materials get returned?

Customers should make a habit of always returning items on or before the due date. It’s not just the right thing to do, it is how libraries work. Library customers with any overdue materials will be unable to checkout additional materials, place holds, or renew items until outstanding materials have been returned. Thus, there is still a consequence for not returning an item on time, but it will not be in the form of overdue fines. Your account will be unblocked if you just get those overdue items back as soon as possible.

Read below if you’d like more information on Denton Public Library going fine free. Otherwise, we can’t wait to see some smiling faces we haven’t seen in a while!

Denton Public Library Fine Free Q&A

What’s the difference between fines and fees?

Fines are a daily penalty assessed for late return of library items. It’s telling you you’re naughty, after the fact. That isn't useful and we aren't doing it anymore.

Fees are charges assessed for true material loss for unreturned or damaged items and may include fees resulting from collection referral. Fees are still included as part of our circulation policy.

You say that many customers have had their fines forgiven. Am I included?

Overdue fines for late returns have been eliminated; however, customers who have lost or damaged materials or associated collection fees will need to settle their account to reinstate borrowing privileges. The easiest way to find out if you have a remaining balance is to login to your library card account at or contact the library by visiting your nearest branch, calling (940) 349-8752, or sending an e-mail to . Please be sure to have your library card number handy.

What happens if I don't return my items by the due date?

You'll be blocked from checking out additional materials, placing holds, or renewing items until outstanding materials have been returned. Access to some digital or online resources may also be blocked at that time.

Will I be charged anything?

You won't be charged overdue fines for late returns. Keep in mind though that items are considered Lost on the 21st day overdue, and you will be billed replacement fees for those items at that point.

I didn't really lose these items, can I still bring them back?

Yes! Please return materials as soon as possible. Those replacement fees will automatically drop off your account and you'll be back to borrowing.

So, no matter how late I return items, I'll never be charged a fee?

Well, not quite. If you wait too long, your account may be referred to a collection agency. We want library materials back so other customers can use them, too! Accounts are referred to collections on the 81st day overdue. At that point, a non-negotiable fee is assessed to cover costs we incur pursuing collection action. No library account information is reported to a credit agency.

If there is a hold waiting list on an overdue item what happens?

The same thing that happened before going fine free. The person with the item checked out is responsible for returning the item on or before the due date. Once it is returned, the person waiting for that item will receive notification that their hold is available for pickup. Patrons still face a consequence for not turning items in by the due date: their account will be blocked from checking out, renewing, placing holds, and accessing some online resources.

Libraries that have gone fine free report no changes in material return rates. In fact, a Supporting Parents in Early Literacy through Libraries (SPELL) research report from the Colorado State Library, Removing Barriers to Access, found that data does not support the idea that overdue fines influence patrons to return materials on time.

How was the decision made to go fine free?

The Denton Public Library wished to remove barriers to library use and positively impact borrowing for many customers. In December, 2018, the Denton Public Library Advisory Board approved a new Library Strategic Plan, which included an initiative to pursue the elimination of overdue fines. In the summer of 2019, we began auto-renewals for materials, further helping customers avoid fees. Later that same year, the library formally asked the Denton City Council for approval to end overdue fine collection. The City Council approved the change as part of the Fiscal Year 2019/2020 budget process.