Ocean County Library is now fine-free. We no longer charge daily overdue fines on late items.

Why go fine-free?

It's good for our community. The library’s mission is to connect people, build community and transform lives. Eliminating overdue fines will further that mission by removing barriers to the Library’s resources. Increasing access to the Library benefits our entire community.

Overdue fines are not effective. Our own experience during the Coronavirus pandemic and multiple studies have shown that small fines have no impact on return rates and may work against that goal.

It's good for our relationships. Going fine-free makes a trip to the Library more pleasant for both you and our staff.

What led to this decision?

Our library system was closed to the public from March 2020 until July 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic, and has been fine-free since March 2020. When we reopened, nearly all library materials were returned. We knew from this experience that eliminating fines benefited our patrons. To increase our knowledge on this, we read articles, spoke with staff at other libraries that have gone fine-free, and analyzed our statistics and financial data.

We learned:

  • The American Library Association (ALA) encourages libraries to remove all barriers to library and informational services, particularly overdue charges.
  • Fine-Free Library systems report positive experiences for both patrons and staff members.
  • The administrative costs associated with collecting fines from patrons can equal or exceed the revenue earned.
  • Once the stigma of library fines is gone, some communities have found that the removal and forgiveness of fines also led to the return of long-overdue library books and the return of patrons.
Have other libraries eliminated late fines?

Yes! Visit https://endlibraryfines.info/fine-free-library-map/ to see how many libraries around the world have adopted fine-free policies.

What does fine-free mean exactly?

You will no longer receive a fine on overdue items. You are, of course, still responsible for returning items.

The Library will send you courtesy reminders to return items. Materials that are seven days overdue are assumed lost, and you will be billed a replacement cost. If you return the items, the replacement cost is waived. If the item has been lost and/or damaged, you are responsible for the replacement cost.

Won’t removing fines prevent people from ever returning the items?

No! Return rates are higher when fines are eliminated. We know this from our experience of being fine-free in 2020. Of course, we will continue to monitor how this change will affect patrons and will make improvements as we see necessary.

Are there any fines/fees that will still be charged to my account?

If an item is overdue for seven days, it will be considered lost, and fees for replacing the item will be billed to your account.

Any accrual of fees totaling more than $24.99 will result in your library card being blocked, meaning, you will be unable to use your card.

Do any items have late fees?

Yes, there are a few exceptions, such as equipment and for materials that are owned by other libraries and borrowed through Interlibrary Loan.

What do I have to do to have fines forgiven and removed from my account?

If you have outstanding fines accrued on your library card from Ocean County items that have been returned, we will waive them. No questions asked. If you are still in possession of overdue materials, return them in our book drop or in person and we'll remove the fines.

However, if you have fines from lost or damaged material, you are still responsible for those charges.  You can always speak with us, and we will work with you to find an equitable solution.

I haven't been to the Library in years. Will my card still work?

Ocean County Library cards need to be renewed every three years, so your card may be expired and need to be reactivated. There is also a chance it may have been purged from our circulation system. You can always call us at 732-349-6200 to discuss your card status. You can also apply for a library card here.

I thought I cleared up my late fines, so why do I still have a balance?

While we are doing away with fines, fees for lost or damaged materials remain. 

How will this affect the Library's budget?

While the Library is always mindful of its bottom line watching funding, any loss of overdue fine revenue is minuscule compared to the good this new policy will do for our community. The increased use of our digital materials (ex. Overdrive, Libby, hoopla) and other factors have made fines an unsustainable form of revenue. Also, overdue fines account for less than .4% of the Library's budget; going fine-free will not significantly impact the budget moving forward.

What is the difference between a fine and a fee?

Fines are punitive.  Fees are for library services and products such as copying, printing, and material replacement costs.

I have always thought of paying my fines as a donation to the Library. Can I still donate?

Yes! Donations are always appreciated and can be made to your local branch, Friends group, or the Ocean County Library Foundation. We can always improve our services and programming, and donations greatly help!