What to do with an overdue library book

by tealmermaid

Everyone has an overdue library book at some point. When it happens to you, what happens next?

Every library user will forget to return a book at some point in their lives. Most locate the overdue book, return it, pay their fines, and continue enjoying the library. Some however maintain possession of the book in question, fearing to return it in light of the accumulating fines. After a certain amount of time passes, the library considers the book lost and replaces it if the budget allows. A few missing books do make their way back to the library eventually -- discovered when preparing for a move, or found as part of the borrower's estate. Many books never do return to their libraries, the information lost forever.

My library book is overdue. Now what?

Return the book as soon as you can

Library fines for overdue books will stop accumulating once the book has been returned, so return it now. If you are embarrassed about your tardiness, drop it in the overnight book return late at night. You can deal with the fines later.

Return your books in a timely manner.
Return your books in a timely manner.

Pay your fines

In many libraries there is a cap to the amount of fees due for overdue books. You probably won't be charged the full amount due when returning a book that is years overdue. Check the library's web site for the information, or telephone the library to inquire about whether this is a maximum fee for overdue books. Once you have that information, you can be ready to pay your fine on your next visit to the library. In most cases the cap is at $5 or $10, so it should be manageable to pay in full.

If there is no fee cap and paying the full amount at once would be a hardship for you, you might be able to negotiate with the staff to pay your fine. Ask if the fee might be reduced (or forgiven entirely). You might alternately ask about working at the library (dusting, watering plants, etc) to pay your fine.

The world's most overdue library books

The longest known overdue books are surprisingly one of George Washington's borrowings. He had checked out a pair of books on international relations in 1789 but failed to return them in a timely manner. At 220+ years late and 2 pence per day, that would be a large fine if he had to pay for every day the books were overdue. The current whereabouts of the books are still unknown.

For librarians

Managing overdue library books

Overdue books are a serious issue for libraries. The library's budget often cannot be stretched enough to replace missing books in addition to acquiring new titles, so other people who might like to read that missing volume must do without.

Charging and Collecting Fees and Fines: A Handbook for Libraries

An excellent guide to determining the correct amount of fees for each instance of an overdue library book.

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How late was your most overdue book ever?

Updated: 11/16/2015, tealmermaid
 
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candy47 on 11/18/2015

Two days was the longest I held an overdue book, and yes I was embarrassed!

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