What Does It Mean To Be Fine Free?

Fine free means no late charges on Library materials. Tuscaloosa Public Library wants to ensure that everyone in our community has access to our resources. Fines most often impact the individuals and families in our community who can’t afford to pay them. We want ALL people to be able to use our resources without money creating a barrier.

How is TPL Going Fine Free?

Here’s a quick rundown of what fine free means for you!

  • TPL no longer charges overdue fines for materials returned after their due date.
  • All outstanding overdue fines have been waived from your account.  
  • Materials not returned in a timely manner will still be billed to your account, and you will not be able to check out additional materials.
  • Once the items are returned, the charges are removed from your account and you are free to check out materials. No fines!
  • As an added bonus, TPL now automatically renews your materials! See a librarian to learn more.

Want to read more about why TPL has gone fine free and how it works? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions below, and visit TPL today.

It’s good for our community. We are stronger when everyone has access to the resources and programming our Library has to offer. Studies show that people with late fines are less likely to visit the Library again. We want Tuscaloosa Public Library to be a welcoming space, not a source of anxiety or stress. By going fine free we hope to encourage prior users to come back to the Library and attract new users to experience everything our Library has to offer.

Yes! Public libraries in over 200 cities across the United States have gone fine free. In communities as diverse as Nashville (TN), Cleveland (OH), Auburn (AL), Dallas (TX), Charlotte-Mecklenburg (NC), and Columbia (MO), statistics show that:

  • More (not less) library items were returned.
  • Borrowing of materials increased.
  • Library card registrations increased.
  • Staff time was redirected from fine collection to patron-focused services.

No. Research shows that late fines are not effective in encouraging the return of library materials. TPL stopped charging fines for children’s materials in 2014, and our return rates did not decline. We would rather trust users to return materials on time than punish them for returning materials a few days late. Please note: the Library will continue to charge replacement fees for materials that are not returned or that are returned damaged.

Yes! Every item checked out will still have a due date. Please remember that someone else may be waiting for an item. We encourage you to return items on time so that everyone has equal access to our collection—we just don’t want you to stress out about it!

Yes! As an added bonus, the Library now automatically renews your materials! The Library sends courtesy notices to let you know when your item has been renewed, when it’s due, when it’s overdue, and when it has been billed to your account. Check with a librarian to make sure you are signed up to receive these notices.

Items that are not returned by their due date are still considered overdue. Once an item is 4 weeks overdue, the item is considered “lost” and your account will be charged for its replacement. These charges include the price of the item plus a processing fee. Once an item is charged to your account, borrowing privileges will be suspended until the item is returned or paid for.

Yes! Please do! When an overdue item considered “Lost” is returned, the replacement charges are removed from your account and borrowing privileges are reinstated.

Very little. Tuscaloosa Public Library is committed to doing the most good with its resources. Overdue fines account for less than 1% of TPL’s yearly revenue and their elimination will not significantly impact the Library’s budget. By eliminating fines, staff can spend less time managing the collection of fines and more time directly assisting library users. Overdue fines are simply not a sustainable or reliable form of revenue for the Library and were never meant to be.