Library 101 – Why do I have fines?

The library is free for the public to use. Our storytimes are free. Our special events are free. It is free to get a library card, and it is free to use that library card to check out books and DVD’s. “If everything is free, why are there fines on my account,” you may be wondering. These fines are money owed to the library. The only time you ever have to pay money to the library is through misuse of the library’s items. This includes returning an item past its due date (including laptops used within the library), losing an item, losing part of an item, and damaging an item.

I will go over each of these below:

  • Returning an item past its due date: In order the keep things fair at the library, we require all items to be returned by their due date. For Santa Clarita Public Library’s books and audiobooks, that is in 3 weeks. For our, DVD’s and magazines, that is in 1 week. If you have requested an item from an outside library, you may be subject to a different due date. By logging into your account through the library’s website, you can keep track of all your due dates easily, and you can renew your items if applicable. Overdue fines are $.30 per day, per item on an adult card and $.15 per day, per item on a kid card.
  • Losing an item: If you cannot find something you checked out, please let us know before it is due. You will be charged overdue fines if you wait until it’s past its due date to deal with it. Once an item is declared lost, your account will be charged a replacement fee, which varies depending on what was lost. Sometimes, you will be given the chance to replace the item yourself, which could save you some money. This is not always guaranteed, though, so you must speak to someone in charge at your branch before being granted this courtesy.
  • Losing part of an item: Some of our items have multiple pieces. We have DVD sets with more than one DVD. We have book kits, which include a book, a CD, and a special bag. If you lose any part of an item that has multiple pieces, you will be asked to replace the entire item. If there is an audiobook missing 1 of it 4 CD’s, the library cannot purchase just the one missing CD. We must re-purchase the entire set and withdraw the set that is missing a piece. If you lose one of our kit bags but everything else is there, you will be asked to simply pay for the kit bag.
  • Damaging an item: We know that all of our items are not perfect. As one of the children’s librarians, I see slightly damaged books all the time. This means they are well-loved and getting checked out a lot. There are certain signs of damage, though, that we do have to charge customers for. Liquid damage is one of our biggest culprits. This ruins a book and can spread mold to other books so we must replace liquid damaged books. Believe it or not, we see books that have been eaten by dogs and babies a lot. Those books must be replaced. Highlighting passages, scribbling with pen and marker, covering with stamps or stickers. All of these things can ruin a book for other users so we must charge for a replacement.

If you ever feel that you have been unfairly charged for an item, please come talk to us. Some of these charges are automatically added through our computer system. Some have been added by a person after damage has been assessed. If the item was borrowed from a different library, the charge may be coming from the person in charge at that library. In any case, we are open to talk about your charges. Please ask to speak to the person in charge, and that person will be able to talk through the charges with you.

As a sidenote, I would like to add that our ebook lending program incurs no charges ever. It is not possible to damage or lose an ebook. Also, the books automatically delete off your device after their time is up so you will never have overdue fines with an ebook. If the risk of fines is too much for you, you may find that our ebook program is a great way to continue checking out our books.


Miss Angie

I am a children's librarian at SCPL's Canyon Country Library. My favorite things are funny books, ice cream, and the Matterhorn at Disneyland.

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