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How to rack up library late fees

A guide for the uninitiated.

overdue fine at the library

1. Never sign up for email notifications.

Those automated emails that tell you books will be due soon?   You don’t need those.   Just rely on your memory. Or you could put the due date on a calendar that you never look at.

Alternatively, you could just not ever check the email account you signed up with.

2. Instead of renewing right away, put it off.

If you DO happen to read one of those “Your books are due soon!” emails, don’t hop on the library website and renew right away.   You should probably finish reading your email, throw in a load of laundry, or start on dinner.   This will ensure that you totally forget to do the renewal, and eventually the reminder email will get buried in your inbox.

3. Don’t have a central location for library books.

The more places your library books live, the better.   Kids’ bedrooms, the car, under the sofa, in the closets….all of these are great places to lose books.   And lost books go back late!

4. Never check your library account before you take your books back.

If you did that, you’d know what’s coming due soon and you could make sure to find those books. How will you rack up late fees then?

5. Don’t search the house for books before you leave.

Better to just gather the books in easy sight and return those to the library.   Some of the books on your living room floor are bound to be the ones that need to go back, right?

Hunting for books takes way too much time.

6. Check out at least 47 books per family member.

More books = more to lose track of = more late fees.

bonus tip: Do a bunch of driving to avoid a $0.25 fine.

If you’re into wasting money, then by all means, hop in the car and drive 10 miles to the library to return the book that’s due tomorrow. It’s not like gas and wear and tear on your car will cost you more than $0.25, so why wait until you’ll be in the vicinity of the library for other errands?   Make a special trip.


Got any creative tips for accruing library fines?   Do share!


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Giselle D

Monday 7th of November 2016

I actually can't incur late fees because my library system doesn't charge them. I actually kind of wish they did, so then they would have a better selection and computer system.


Thursday 27th of October 2016

Before I became a librarian, I was the best library patron- I was so diligent about returning books on time and was always mortified the very few occasions I accrued fines. Then I started working in a public library and quickly realized that EVERYBODY accrues fines, most regularly. Late fines were pretty much the only way my library made any money, though, so I stopped feeling embarrassed when I had to pay fines, though it definitely isn't frugal on the patron's part. You could always just think of it as a donation, if it helps you feel less guilty! Ha! We would have patrons complain about paying fines and talk about their "tax dollars paying for these books to begin with," and we would just perform mental eye rolls. Most public libraries (certainly those in smaller communities) have very low budgets and must do a lot of their own fundraising. Anyway, I stay home with my daughter now and am no longer a working librarian, but I keep accruing those late fees, mostly because I don't check the email account frequently where I registered to have reminders sent. I can't change it manually, and always forget to ask while I'm at the library. :/ And like you said, sometimes I know it's the last day to return books, but don't want to drive 20-30 min. away when that is my only purpose for driving.


Friday 21st of October 2016

Thank you for this post. You just gave me a good giggle :-)

I used to get a lot of late fees for a lot of the reasons you mention. The worst part is that it takes me all of 5 minutes to walk there!


Friday 21st of October 2016

Just wanted to offer two tips here.

1. Put a reminder in your phone of the due date.

2. Put the library's phone number in your phone.

I've yet to work in a library in the last 20 years that wouldn't accept over the phone renewal requests. (Unless there are holds on the item or your number of renewals have been reached.)

Laura Vanderkam

Thursday 20th of October 2016

My eldest could not find a book he'd checked out from the school library last year. So, when the school year ended, and we still could not find the book, we dutifully wrote a check for the replacement fee. Then the book turned up! You'll never guess where! IN HIS BACKPACK. Who would have thought it would have been, you know, there?


Thursday 20th of October 2016

It's so hard to find things when they're in sensible places!

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