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Fine-Free Library FAQ

On February 17, 2022, the Austin City Council adopted an ordinance eliminating overdue fines for Austin Public Library materials returned or renewed past their due date. Below are some questions and answers to help you understand what this change means for you when accessing APL resources and materials.

  • Q: What is changing?
    Austin Public Library customers will no longer incur fines for returning or renewing library materials past their due dates. Late fines create a financial barrier for many people in accessing library materials, and have been found to be an ineffective way of encouraging returns. Overdue fines had already been eliminated for children’s materials at Austin Public Library – this new change applies to adult materials. The change goes into effect on Monday, February 28, 2022.
  • Q: Will this change discourage returns and make it harder for me to find books?
    Studies of libraries in other communities that have eliminated late fees have found that ending late fees actually results in a higher rate of books being returned, as people are less likely to avoid the library if they are not concerned about having to pay money. That means more books in circulation for APL customers.
  • Q: Will my current fines be forgiven?
    A: No. The fine-free change is not retroactive, and does not eliminate unpaid fines that customers already had on their account prior to the change going into effect. Cardholders will still be responsible for fines assessed prior to the change. 
  • Q: Will I still need to pay if I have lost a book? 
    A: Yes. If an item is lost or damaged, the cost of the item will be billed to the cardholder’s account. 
  • Q: I have fines now, can I use my library card? 
    A: Library cards with unpaid fees totaling $24.99 or less can be used to borrow material. Customers with unpaid fines or fees over $24.99 cannot check out materials. Note: All unpaid fees owed on Library card accounts that have been referred to collections will need to be paid in full before the card can be used again.
  • Q: When and how does a customer receive communication about overdue items? 
    A: Courtesy overdue item notification emails are sent when an item becomes 3, 14 and 27 days overdue. 
  • Q: Can I work out a payment plan for my current fees? 
    We don't have a formal payment plan, but you can make payments as you are able. Please speak with Customer Service at 512-974-7475 to discuss options.
  • Q: What if I have a special circumstance? Who should I contact? 
    Contact Austin Public Library Customer Service at 512- 974-7475. 
  • Q: If I am unable to use my card, can I still use the library to read books or use the computers? 
    Yes. Anyone can use public computers and Wi-Fi, read books, do research, attend Library events and use most of our online databases in-house without a Library Card.