Essay: How to Avoid Library Fines

The public library knows our name.  Our family has about 300 items charged out at any given time, and 50-100 of them rotate in and out of the house every week. One of our children received a library card as a newborn because it added 100 to our household limit. They laughed, but they gave it to me.

Yet we have spent less than ten dollars on library fines this year. Over several years, I’ve developed a simple system that could be easily adapted to suit another family’s needs.  Most people don’t need to manage quite that many items, but I know some people pass up stories they and their families would really enjoy because of the administrative hassle and the cost of fines, and that’s a shame. Here are the 5 pieces of my system. I hope they save you money and bring more books into your house.

1. We choose one day of the week to visit the library, and build the week’s schedule around it. Occasionally it might shift by a day or two, but keeping the same day makes it easier to remember.

2. Since keys and cards are not kept next to the computer, I keep a list of everybody’s library card numbers and PIN’s.  Two days before library day I log into each account and renew everything due before the NEXT week’s library day. (There are some items I could keep longer if I waited until the due date to renew, but I can’t remember to do this more than once a week).  Then I make a list of books that have to be returned. Since our list is long, I organize it by what room in the house items are likely to be found.

3. The next day we use my list to gather everything into my wonderfully sturdy wheeled book cart (affiliate link). I save the list so we can re-request items we’re not finished with.

4. On library day we simply return the items, check out a new batch, and begin a new read-aloud extravaganza.

5. Homemade cookies and sincere thank-you cards to the library staff for the ridiculous amount of extra work we create for them go a long way toward helping them view our relationship positively. And since they’re generally happy to see us, they tend to be understanding when a book turns up missing or damaged.

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Categories: Essays

Posted on June 7, 2015


1 Response to Essay: How to Avoid Library Fines

  • KDC says:

    Haha! This is all great advice, especially the part about building relationships. (Note that using it a lot isn’t a problem for many libraries, as their funding often depends on circulation statistics.) Our librarians love us and often set aside donated books that won’t make it into the collection for our kids. We’ve never been charged a fine, even when we’ve lost books!

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