Fine Free FAQ


 On January 1st, 2023, the Musser Public Library & HNI Community Center will waive all existing overdue fines and discontinue the practice of applying overdue fines to items returned late. Here’s what you need to know:

 Why is the library eliminating overdue fines?

In January 2019, the American Library Association (ALA) passed a resolution that asserted overdue fines are a barrier to equitable access and encouraged libraries to eliminate them.

Part of our vision at Musser Public Library is to be the gateway to learning and information for all ages. By becoming a fine free library we go a step further towards attaining this goal.

The potential of accruing a balance of overdue fines can prevent some community members from checking out library items or even obtaining a library card. Studies have shown that overdue fines on library materials have no impact on ensuring that materials are returned on time. What research has shown is that lower income households (which are less likely to have books in the home and have a higher risk of lower literacy skills) are disproportionately affected by overdue fines and are more likely to have blocked library accounts.

We are committed to making our library as accessible as possible to those that need it most. Our goal with eliminating fines will be to:

bring back library users whose library accounts are blocked due to unpaid overdue fines; and

encourage more people to sign up for a library card and use library materials without the fear of incurring overdue fines

In going fine-free, we are joining the ranks of many other public libraries across the nation. In the lead up to this decision, we carefully reviewed studies and articles about eliminating fines. Here are a sample of articles:

Doing Fine(s)? Fines & Fees by Jennifer A. Dixon, Steven A. Gillis

Long Overdue: Why public libraries are finally eliminating the late-return fine by Ruth Graham

Why Are Libraries Eliminating Late Fees? by PC Sweeney

Fine Farewells by Andrew Gerber

What does this mean?

On January 1st, 2023, MPL will:

Forgive all existing overdue fines

Discontinue charging overdue fines

Fees for services (copy, print, etc.) and lost or damaged items will remain.

Does this mean I can keep items as long as I want?

No, customers will still be expected to return materials on time so that all members of the community might have access to them. We will continue to follow our notification system to help you remember when items are due back. If items are not returned in a timely manner the account will be charged the replacement cost and processing fee and the account will be blocked.

Timeline for a checked out item:

First notice of overdue items will be issued 5 days after the due date and sent to each patron upon verification, based on their chosen notification preference (phone, email, text message, etc).

Second notice of overdue items will be issued 15 days after due date and sent to patron upon verification

Third notice in the form of a bill listing overdue items and their replacement price will be issued 30 days after the due date and mailed to patrons upon verification.

Long Overdue Materials – Library accounts for which a bill has been sent may be submitted to a collection agency and/or to local law enforcement for further action per Code of Iowa, Chapter 714.5, Theft of Library Materials and Equipment.


I have long overdue items that are still in good condition, can I bring them back now without a fine?

Yes, please do! The overdue fines on these items have been waived, and we would be very grateful to have these items back on our shelves for others to use.

I found an item that I’m being charged for as “lost.” Can I bring it back?

Yes, please do! Fees charged to your account will be waived for items returned in a timely manner.

How many patrons will this change impact?

Currently 2,531 patrons owe overdue fines. Of these patrons, 1,194 are adults and 537 are juvenile patrons. This represents nearly 10% of Library cardholders.

This change unblocks my library card! How can I reactivate my library card?

You may be able to use your library card right away, but if your card has expired you will need to renew it by contacting us in person or by phone. 


I just paid my fine, can I get a refund?

Unfortunately we are unable to refund fines that were previously paid.

How will this change have an impact on holds on library materials?

The effect on the number of holds and the length of time a customer spends on a hold list for an item is one element we will be watching closely. We will continue to send reminders to patrons to return their items on time, and items with holds will still not be able to be renewed.

How will the Musser Public Library’s budget be affected?

This change will have minimal impact on our budget as the annual overdue fine collection amount is less than 0.24% of our annual budget. We will continue to collect fees for lost and damaged materials, deactivated hotspots, and library services such as printing and copying.

Can I still give money to the library in lieu of overdue fines?

Of course you can, and we appreciate your support! You can directly support us by donating to the Library Trust or to the Friends of Musser Public Library.