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How can I Avoid Library Fines?

L. S. Wynn
By L. S. Wynn
Updated Mar 01, 2015
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a stack of booksThe easiest, and most appropriate, way to avoid library fines is to return your books on time. There is a simple hack, however, that allows a patron to return books past the due date without being fined.

DISCLAIMER: We do not condone this technique - we are merely presenting it as a security hole that libraries should consider.


  1. Check out library books.
  2. Keep books past the due date.
  3. Receive some notice (email or telephone call) that the books are late.
  4. Take the books back to the library, but do not return them into the drop box; reshelve them in the appropriate place.
  5. On the same visit to the library, you can go to the librarian and tell them that you received an overdue notice, but that you returned them previously. They will likely check the computer and see that they have not been returned. You can then propose that they might have been mistakenly reshelved without being scanned. A trip to the shelves will show that you are right. You can also perform this step by telephone.
  6. (Optional but highly recommended) Donate whatever money you saved back to the library.

This technique will only work at libraries that allow users to directly access the stacks.

How Libraries could Block this Techinque

Libraries could easily prevent this technique from being successful by checking the bags of patrons coming into the library. Some libraries already do this for security reasons, but most do not. If they spot an overdue book being brought in, they could confiscate it at the desk and levy the fine.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon940824 — On Mar 20, 2014

This is actually happening to me. I returned five books, saw them on my account still. When I went in, I found two on the shelves and cannot find the other three. Now, they are trying to make me purchase the others (over $65) when I really did return them!

I had no idea this was a gimmick and now understand why they have a hard time believing innocent people like myself. Forget you liars and dishonest scammers.

By anon927290 — On Jan 23, 2014

A friend of mine used my library card. She returned the books late and accumulated fee on my account. Every time I remind her about the fee she says she is going to pay. It has been more than six months. She hides from me, does not answer the phone, and even sent me a message that me calling her was stalking and threatened me with the police. Do libraries make an exception in such cases and dismiss the fine?

By anon356788 — On Nov 28, 2013

I don't know about the above post, but I can say we have overpaid our fair share of library books/items. I have not tried to get out of library fines, but I have paid and paid and paid and paid to the public library system fines that I did not incur. But what can you do right?

We lived in Butte County, California, and had to frequently go to the shelf to go find items that were checked back in and stocked on the shelf, but not on our account (therefore continuing fees daily) and had to bring it up to the librarian to have it corrected. It got to be ridiculous.

Then the same thing happened in San Bernardino County, California when we moved there. Finally, this year -- after much debate -- I went in to the library and told them to cancel my account after we had not been in nine months or so (and lo and behold, there are surprise "fines" during my close out request that were not there last month (remember we have not used this card in nine months now) and somehow there are fines. It never ends.

I no longer want anything else to do with any library. My son loves the library but it’s not worth the risk because those fines get racked up and there is nothing to be done about it. Even if you are obeying the prescribed set of rules, you can’t make the check-in person do their job right. You can’t know you owe if you took it back three days before it was due and it still never made it back to the counter on time. You can’t make them not lose the videos. It’s just commerce. I think. Not enough people have too much to do, so corners get cut. It’s too bad. My grandmother started a library at an elementary school in Oceanside many moons ago and was dedicated to books. We are too, but the library is no longer an option for us.

My husband has bought a Kindle, and I just recently bought an iPad for my son. This was our way to replace the need for a library and it completely removes the possibility of something funny going on that we are not aware of and affecting our credit down the line.

Folks try to rationalize that "obviously you did something to cause this". This is because folk don't want to face the fact that sometimes things just are not right within the given system itself, therefore if they give way to the possibility that the above could happen to them even if they follow the given protocol, that would mean they have no control of the situation -- which is exactly what it means. There is no stability in the public library system. I hope we never have to use it anywhere, ever again.

By anon356499 — On Nov 25, 2013

Although this is a clever way of getting out of paying 50 something dollars I owe, It's wrong. I didn't bring them in and I accumulated these fines. U knew I had to turn them in but procrastinated. I'm going to do it in small payments.

By anon344289 — On Aug 07, 2013

The public library provides materials, Internet, services, and programs for free. They serve all people, regardless of race, religion, age, or economic status. I cannot think of many other places quite like it. Why are we trying to take advantage by cheating the system? This article makes me sad.

By anon325384 — On Mar 15, 2013

My library sent me to collections for a library fine. This is how you remedy it: Set up a weekly bill-pay through your bank of $1 ($52/year) and send it to the library to pay off your fines (and then keep sending it). Ask (in writing) that the remaining balance be credited to your account (which most libraries are not set up for) or that the remaining balance be donated to their foundation.

In showing support for the library (with your donation), this also shows your dissatisfaction with their accounting department. Trust me: moving these small dollar amounts around and applying some here and some there and transferring a dollar to their foundation every week throws a wrench into their accounting system. They will know that you are dissatisfied with them "sending you to collections" for a $10 library fine.

By anon321432 — On Feb 22, 2013

Why there is no way for people to cancel a hold item? Perhaps, if there were a way, then fines and other inconveniences could be avoided. Sometimes practicality goes a long way. I had tried numerous times to cancel holds and is virtually impossible online.

By anon303865 — On Nov 16, 2012

If you are ones of these people, don't complain and wonder why the library never has new material.

By anon271464 — On May 26, 2012

Libraries are wise to this technique, and will flag your account if you attempt this. You may get away with it once, but like the boy who cried wolf, you'll not be trusted.

By anon263892 — On Apr 26, 2012

How about just returning it on time?

By anon244200 — On Jan 31, 2012

It is I, 244077 again. After traveling to the library, they told me I was the first person to take that new book out, and that only two people had taken it out after me (in three months). After telling them that I could only say it wasn't me, they decided they wouldn't charge me.

By anon244077 — On Jan 30, 2012

Help. I just received a call from my library saying a book I returned on time three months ago is damaged, and that they're holding me responsible. 1] I did not damage the book 2] Are they holding me solely responsible? If so, why me alone? Thanks in advance.

By anon243660 — On Jan 29, 2012

People will pull this stunt for a fine as small as 30 cents. Library staff will eventually know your face, and it won't always work. You will be remembered for the rest of your days.

By anon239989 — On Jan 11, 2012

Don't be dishonest. If you have trouble returning books on time, try Library Gadget. It shows what's checked out across multiple cards in one place, it renews books for you automatically and it sends more frequent reminders.

Full disclosure - I'm the founder of Library Gadget.

By anon220044 — On Oct 05, 2011

Unfortunately, people pulling this kind of stunt is why I had problems with a specific library a few years ago.

The library I frequented would often not check books back in and would charge me fines and then tell me I had to replace the item as well after I returned it. I'd go the the librarian and tried to explain I had returned the item but would be told the usual "look for it again" routine.

I understand their dilemma and that probably plenty of people try to pull that, but I frequented that library about once a week and was always checking out a ton of books and returning them. I was no stranger, or a rude patron.

I actually gave up trying to figure out what to do and thought I might have imagined returning the book. Then while browsing the shelves I saw the book I had returned. I knew it was the same one because it had the same wear and tear. I took it to the librarian and told them that I had found the book I had been looking for on the shelf. She didn't believe me, first trying to say it was another copy or I couldn't know that. I finally convinced her to scan it to check and lo and behold, it was still checked out to me. She checked it back in and that was that.

Not only did this happen a couple times to me, and I had already on a different day told the librarian I had returned it, but the fines were never reversed.

Why they thought I'd go through the trouble of going all the way to the library to tell them I had dropped off the book a week ago but it was still checked out, then come back a week later, tell them I looked everywhere for it and I'm positive I returned it browse the shelves and somehow sneak the book back without them seeing (small library) is beyond me. It seems like a lot of trouble that could be averted by returning the book at any of those visits.

By anon216419 — On Sep 21, 2011

Late fees are a prod to get folks to return items in a timely manner so others have the opportunity to use them. It works. When Blockbuster dropped their late fees it was the last time I ever made the effort to get my DVDs back on time.

Late fees aren't necessarily a money making venture (see above) but they do make money for the library. Goes into the General Fund? Where do you think the funds in your library budget come from?

Library staff have heard so many fake excuses that they are jaded and it's a sad situation that folks use dishonesty to avoid a charge of a few cents or few dollars makes it so that an honest story can't be believed.

Person who donated to her library, is now upset that they charged her late fees and is going to stop using the library -- you won't be missed. Your donation should have bought a good feeling, not an expectation of privilege.

By anon168772 — On Apr 18, 2011

Point in fact, the method described in this article is a well known, perennial favorite of those who like to find ways around the 'system'.

Another point in fact is that library staff members are onto the scam, but in our concern for retaining the goodwill of our Patrons, we will not out-an-out call 90 percent of the intentional abusers liars. Basic rule of thumb is: to err is human -- once, maybe twice, but three or more times is a bad habit that needs to be stopped.

Another point in fact is that we do keep track of the reasons given by patrons who claim the staff made an error because we bend over backward to eliminate any practices that would lead to a borrower being wrongfully charged. Librarians, on the whole, do their best for the public.

It is a shame that some members of the public do not feel that they owe librarians the same courtesy.

By anon167125 — On Apr 11, 2011

I always try to return my library books on time. Most of the time I return them weeks before they are due. Sometimes though, I cannot get to a library, or I think I have lost a book, so if it's not close to the due date, I renew it and that gives me time to finish it or look for it.

For example, I have a book that says it did not get returned, but I know I did,so I will talk to the librarian. The book is not due until next month, but you can never be too cautious. Never cheat librarians. They know sometimes an honest mistake is made.

By anon112829 — On Sep 22, 2010

As a librarian I can say that there are plenty of truly honest patrons, there are lots of simply mistaken ones, and there are several plain-old-fashioned jerks. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference. I'm more than willing to waive people's fines or put a claims returned on their account. But I will also put a note on their account because you have to watch out for the system abusers.

As for the folks who think an e-mail notice is the solution, I can tell you this: four out of five patrons will tell you they never got the notice. In fact, the notices are a courtesy done by the library. It is the patron's responsibility to take note of what they have out. The library offers so many ways to check your account--online, over the phone, by your receipt.

The big problem is that there is a huge disconnect between patrons and the amount of responsibility they are willing to take. A library can be used virtually for free (minus the taxes you pay) if you follow the rules.

By anon64015 — On Feb 04, 2010

I have read these comments and I am struck by the tone of the librarians, who assume that people returning library books late are "irresponsible, lazy, and self-absorbed."

I humbly beg to differ. The library fines on a stack of children's books I recently borrowed for my kids over Christmas and then forgot about for two weeks came to $54. The fines amount to a 100 percent interest rate in 100 days. Compare this to predatory interest rates by fly-by-night lending companies.

Children's books are generally 10-15 pages long. They are not like adults' books which are checked out in small quantities. The majority of library fines are in fact levied on children's books (my father worked on a library board), which has the unfortunate effect of discouraging use of the library by children (I know I won't be back to this library any time soon).

I recently donated over $1000 to build this library in our area, which I now refuse to patronize. If libraries truly want to use fines as a deterrent as they claim, instead of a source of revenue, they would do as the next county over does, which is send out a reminder by email that the books are soon due or at least overdue.

I plan to use the neighboring county library exclusively in the future. I have no respect whatsoever for libraries who exploit patrons or for librarians (whose salaries are paid by my tax dollars, overdue fines and donations) who refer to me as lazy and self-absorbed.

By anon43176 — On Aug 26, 2009

For family with lots of book borrowing, is worth to use a reminder service to help remember all the dues.

By MoodyMuse — On Aug 07, 2009

# 33 - The library fines in our city do not go to the library. They go to the city, in exactly the same way parking meter collection does. The fines become part of the city's operating budget. Truth be told, there aren't a bunch of librarians sitting in a back room after hours lighting their cigars with the hundred dollar bills you paid in fines. Library fines become excessive when you are too lazy or too self absorbed to bother to return a book you've already had for a month.

You know - don't do the crime if you can't do the time - or pay the fine.

By MoodyMuse — On Aug 07, 2009

# 36 - While copying books would be an infringement of copyright laws, the process would end up costing more than buying the book outright.

By anon40280 — On Aug 07, 2009

We have "Food for Fines" in Nov and Dec at our library. If a return books late, I ask them to hold my fine until Nov when I bring in canned goods for the food collection they conduct for local pantries and programs. It always ends up the donation far exceeds the fine which is exactly what I prefer.

Being in a 12-step program and practicing those principles in all my affairs, I could not do what is outlined in this article. In fact when I was in my twenties, I stole books from the library, then,a couple of decades later and following my 12-step program, I met with the head librarian, admitted what I had done, took responsibility, and made financial amends (step 9, btw). Believe me - paying a fine is way more comfortable than making amends! Be well all : )

By anon35759 — On Jul 07, 2009

I had a patron try to pull this one off once. It was February and in this part of the country it gets cold outside. I saw him come into the library and head to the stacks. A minute or two later he comes to the desk with this story of the book still checked out to him, so, up we go to check the shelf. Lo and behold, the book is right in its spot! However, while the library is nice and warm, the book is exceptionally cold. I handed the book to the patron and asked if he could explain why this was the only cold book on the shelf. He admitted what he did, paid his fine and I put a permanent comment on his record so that no one else would ever believe his lies.

By anon34978 — On Jul 01, 2009

It might be worth your while to take a book out of the library, copy it on your home computer's printer, (or even the library's own printer, if you can), and then return the book at the earliest time.

(Be sure to leave room for staples, paste, or other home-binding techniques!) And/or look for a cheap, used copy to buy online.

Even if you decide to borrow and return books the usual way, try to *use* those books to *make money*, so you can buy all the *new* copies of books, (and older copies of collectible books), once you get rich!

By dudla — On Jul 01, 2009

Interesting point. I think libraries will (eventually) be implementing the bag check process as people come in to and leave the library, not only for reasons of theft (why wouldn't libraries do it?, businesses do.) but also for security. Employing a checker at the door, wouldn't cost that much money for the library and it would keep things safe. Alternatively a metal detector at the door might be even cheaper. Running the library more like a business would run it might help all these things, including securing revenue to stay afloat.

By anon34799 — On Jun 28, 2009

any idiot that tries this at our library will find that we will check if the book beeps in the security gate. if it doesn't, then the student has reshelved the book.

I love that wiseGEEK thinks libraries shouldn't charge fines... yeah lets just give books away permanently. They're already free to borrow for crying out loud, try getting Borders or Blockbuster to do that!

By anon34737 — On Jun 27, 2009

Nice article Wisegeek.

As for all the prudes, libraries have devolved into another means to mostly raise funds - not its original purpose - so if you can save a little money and sometimes a lot (since library fines can be excessive) big deal.

By anon34731 — On Jun 27, 2009

"The second paragraph notes that we do not condone the use this technique."

Nahhh, don't even try that one.

"This question about bomb-making/drug-making/making a child-porn flick/the best ways to commit murder was an interesting one that we received from one of our readers, and abiding by our charter, we attempted to answer it.

"First, we do not advocate bomb-making/etc. .... The second paragraph notes that we do not condone this activity. "

See how it works? No, in fact it doesn't.

I feel that a much simpler solution would have been to tell the person who asked this question, "I'm sorry, but some of this information is both dishonest and illegal, and we're not going to answer your question."

By wisegeek — On Jun 26, 2009

We recently received some negative comments to this article; while we respect and appreciate both negative and positive comments because they add to the discussion and understanding of an issue, we would like to address some main points.

At wiseGEEK, our aim is to answer our readers' questions. This question about avoiding library fines was an interesting one that we received from one of our readers, and abiding by our charter, we attempted to answer it.

First, we do not advocate the technique raised in this article. You'll notice that the first paragraph of this article recommend returning library books on time as the easiest, and most appropriate, way to return books. The second paragraph notes that we do not condone the use this technique.

For those that argue that disclosing such techniques is detrimental, we urge you to consider how security issues are handled in another field. In the computer security world, malicious techniques are typically uncovered and published so that security professionals can address them and prevent hackers from achieving their goals. Techniques that are kept secret can continue to be exploited — techniques that are published, and addressed, get blocked.

As a side note, we would also like to point out that many libraries have serious discussions to remove fines altogether in the attempt to improve patron goodwill.

By anon34673 — On Jun 26, 2009

This article is unprofessional and far from wiseGEEK'S usual standards. There are plenty of ways to avoid fines without breaking the rules, and there are even websites you can use to remind you that books will be due.

By anon34616 — On Jun 25, 2009

Oh, come on. This is beneath wiseGeek's standard of dispensing interesting information. You've lowered yourselves. Return your dumb library book and grow up.

By anon34615 — On Jun 25, 2009

This is not something that should have been ever published, an instruction on how to 'cheat' the system. This ain't right, man!!

By anon34608 — On Jun 25, 2009

What on earth? I have enjoyed WiseGeek for years, and *not once* has any such crooked advice ever appeared here!

I am horrified and will unsubscribe and report you to the police if I ever see such "aid & abet" material here again.

By anon34606 — On Jun 25, 2009

First: Duh.

Second: How many patrons would reshelve the book properly? A good way to make a book hard to find.

Third: I have been sent a due card and the book was already reshelved, but any human can make a mistake and every system fails now and then.

Fourth: Access to a public library is a great privilege and one that I appreciate. I had a library card when I was in the third grade. --Donald W. Bales

By dgt178 — On Jun 25, 2009

.........what's next......a step-by-step guide on how to successfully rob a bank???

By dgt178 — On Jun 25, 2009

If this isn't the most ridiculously *stupid* wisegeek I have ever read, I don't know what is. Shame on you, wisegeek. Immediately after this post, I am going to unsubscribe to your daily e-mails.........*pathetic*!!!

By anon34501 — On Jun 23, 2009

There is more involved when adding a book to the library system. We do not just add stickers to them. There is an involved process the books must go through before they are ready to be put on the shelf for patrons to check out. As far a replacing a damaged book with a less expensive copy, there are a lot of policies in place for libraries in order for us to get funding and if an employee breaks policy we could get into a lot of trouble or even lose our job. If you really want to see change or understand the "whys" of your library then i suggest that you go to a library board meeting and let your voice be heard there. Please don't give the library workers a hard time when they are just following orders. Thank you.

By anon17751 — On Sep 06, 2008

The librarians here keep saying they don't care about the fines, they just want the books back. But in my experience, that's a lot of nonsense.

I had sixty-odd books checked out from my university library -- not that many for someone who does actual academic work. But I was also suffering from my only bout of serious clinical depression, and I ended up returning the books (all of them) a week after the due date grace period ended. They charged me $20 a book, and it came to about $1300-1400. They refused to waive or even reduce the fine, no matter how much I pleaded with them.

Ultimately, I had to take out a student loan to pay the fine. Let's just say it didn't help with the depression.

By anon6037 — On Dec 13, 2007

Has anyone ever heard of book "recalls"? I checked out a book before Christmas break, thinking I would be able to read it during my long trip home, but today I received a message saying that someone has requested to "recall" the book, so instead of it being due at the end of January (the original due date), I need to return it the week of Christmas. That's fine, but I'm already home for the holidays, and I won't be within even seven hours of my school until the first week of January -- and besides, I'm not even finished! There's a fine for each day past its NEW due date that I'm going to have to pay... this is ridiculous to me. Not that I doubt someone doesn't urgently needs my book two days before Christmas (because everyone celebrates with Norton anthologies...), but... is there any way to at least fight these huge fine that I'm about to accumulate? I guess I could send it back, but that also costs a lot of money.

By anon3491 — On Sep 01, 2007

I generally try to return books on time and if i have overdue items i paid them willingly because it's the responsible thing to do. I always thought the rules are simple and reasonable until I found out one day about the Library's 'damaged' item policy.

I returned a book that had some slight water marks on the edge so the clerk told me i need to pay a fine. So i was like "okay, fine". But then she told me that i need to pay the FULL price for the book which was about 1 year old. This is where I think it doesn't make sense because first of all the book was not that badly damaged that it was unusable:- there were just water marks, not beverage or any stain... just plain H2O! And i have to pay for the full price?? And here is the best part, I asked her if i pay for the full price of the book, can i keep the book? She told me "NO". And it gets even better, I offered to replace the book with a brand new book because i know places where i can get that book at a lower price. She refused and insisted that i need to pay for the full price. I asked her why not? The best explanation she has to offer was that the library receive book that is already labeled and stamped and if I were to simply replace the old book with a new one there would be no extra staff to replace those labels. I look at the book carefully. It is really not that hard to do. There were just 2 labels. I can easily just peeled off the two labels and tape them to the new one, ask for the security sticker and a couple of stamps. How hard is that? You mean to tell me that the Government pay them 45k+ a year and they can't even do a simple thing like that?

Sorry if i sound skeptical but i find it hard to believe that fines are not as unimportant to librarians as you claimed. I have offered a full replacement, was refused and was demanded that I pay FULL price for a minor water marked book which I don't get to keep. Heck,if I knew how the policy works i would simply just report that the book is lost, keep it for myself and then pay the full price.

By dmcmorris — On Jul 20, 2007

RE "I'm a kid with an overdue book".

-It IS important for the library to get the book back on time. Chances are, somebody else is working on the same report you are and is waiting for it to get back. To legitimately keep the book past it's due date, call your library.

Many libraries will "Renew" items. Renewing would be the same thing as taking the book back and then checking it out again. Most will renew items over the phone. Especially for a school project, many libraries will renew the items for you. This at least tells the other person whom may want it that you now have it until such-and-such time, and that they should look elsewhere for it.

Depending on the library's policies, the item may not be renewable if somebody else has their name on it. In which case, it would be advisable that you skim through the book to take notes, or photocopy the applicable sections (virtually all libraries have photocopiers, and many will charge between $0.10 and $0.25/page).

Every library is different in terms of their policies. However, a due date allows us to tell somebody that the item is expected back by such-and-such. Keeping the item past this date without renewal basically forces us to the position "Oh, I don't know when it'll be back... some inconsiderate slacker decided to break our rules and not let us know he wanted it longer...". Library people tend to hold grudges against people whom are chronically overdue (ssshhhhh... you didn't hear it from me!).

By anon2647 — On Jul 19, 2007

Hi, I'm a kid with an overdue book. How important is it that the library gets the book back on time? Can I keep the book for about a week, if I need the book for a school research project, or for reference? I know I had plenty of time to finish the book and return it, but I pretty much waited until the last minute, and now I need to either keep the book for a week after it was due, or return it now and check it out another time.

I have a deadline, and I'm not sure I can finish the book before then if I return it now.

By anon1085 — On May 14, 2007

I am a credentialed librarian who does not currently work in a library. When I did, however, we had a system that made this kind of dishonest behavior unsuccessful every time. We had a three-part check-in process. Each part was done by a different employee. First. the due date was canceled with a specially made stamp. Then, the book was cleared on the computer. Last. the security device in the book was reactivated before it was sent upstairs to be shelved. If none of these steps was done, the book obviously hadn't been properly turned in, and the nasty little creep was held responsible.

By anon1078 — On May 14, 2007

Another librarian here. We come across self-shelvers occasionally, but it's not a huge problem; frankly, we're happy just to get the books back, which most patrons don't realize. At my former library, a rather large university, I got a bit of petty revenge on someone who tried it too many times. I worked in one of the special collections so most of the regular users didn't know me. One day I was browsing in the general collection for something to read during my shift and I saw a girl take a book out of her bag, look around, and then shove it on the shelf before leaving quickly. I got suspicious so I took the book and tucked it into my pile before going a little further down the stack. Sure enough, the girl came back in about five minutes with a librarian in tow, saying, "This always happens to me. I'm sure the book is... right... here?" (I wasn't completely nasty; I returned the book so it wouldn't interfere with her grades but I had a talk with the director about what I had seen. As far as I know, the girl never tried it again.)

By anon1069 — On May 14, 2007

Echoing dmcmorris, we don't care about your piddling ten cents a day, and we're certainly not getting rich off it. We just want the book (or video or CD) back.

There are public libraries where fines have zero effect on the library's budget. If the library collects X dollars in fines through the year, then the city just deducts X dollars from the next year's budget. On the other hand, if the library must replace the book, then it does come out of the budget. So the librarians just want the book back.

The fine is not a significant source of income for th; it's an incentive for the user. It doesn't work for everyone, and we know that, so here's another tip: many libraries offer an Amnesty Day or Fine-Free Day, on which you can return your books without paying a fine.

In the library where I currently work, we check the shelves for every title on every overdue notice before sending the notices to customers. Yes, we do find shelved books that are still checked out -- more often than we'd like, and we suspect that we have some patrons who practice steps 1-4 and are simply waiting for another notice to hit step 5.

You know what? We don't care. We just want the book back.

Oh, and one thing you shouldn't do. I remember a call I took while working circulation one day many years ago.

"I have three overdue library books," the patron said. "And I just received a notice that the fines are becoming large."

"And you'd like to renew them?" I asked.

"No," she said. "I don't want to pay the fines. So here's what we'll do. You waive the fines, and I'll bring the books back. Otherwise, I'll just keep them."

I'm not proud of it, but I lost my professional composure. I couldn't hold back my laughter and I'm afraid it came out a little raspberryish. "You're holding our books hostage?" I giggled.

She hung up.

We librarians ... we just want the books back. But we don't respond well to threats.

By anon1059 — On May 13, 2007

what, people want to cheat the library to get back at the man? before you do this, stop and think, do I consider myself to have class? or do I just chip away at every free good thing until it disappears. If you do this youa re part of the problem. Check yourself!

a library patron

By anon1056 — On May 13, 2007

Avoid fines?

Call and renew the material checked out, or do it online if your library has that capability. The fines end and many, many, many libraries have a grace period of two or three days before fines start to accrue. SO ... when they are overdue - RENEW~

By anon914 — On May 08, 2007

Definitely agree with all the other posters - it might work once, with a small number of books, but no more. We'd give you the benefit of the doubt in most circumstances, but not if it kept happening, particularly as we can check whether it's actually passed behind the loans desk and been resensitised (so that it would set the alarm off - books on loan don't set the alarm off) if we get suspicious. Librarians are generally nice, but don't fall for the same thing twice!

By anon913 — On May 08, 2007

PATRON BEWARE. I am a librarian but also a library patron. Well, this has happened to me more than once at one particular branch of a large public library: I am certain I returned a book but I get an overdue notice. I search the car, (did the book fall out of the bag onto the floor?), I search the kid's rooms again... then I return to the library and tell them the book may be lost. The librarian says, "Let me check the stacks." She finds the book. I am surprised. She is not surprised or apologetic. I tell myself: Make sure to return the book to an actual person and watch the person process the return or risk being fined for no reason.

By anon912 — On May 08, 2007

Won't work at our library. Instead of removeable due date cards, we have adhesive labels in the back of the book. The due date is stamped in one color when the book goes out, and a new date is stamped in a different color when it comes in. No second stamp, the book is still yours.

By anon898 — On May 08, 2007

This method could also screw you over if another patron picks up the book and walks out of the library with it still on your card. Then it's late, it's still out on your card, and you have no control over where it is or if it ever comes back.

I mention this because I've had people try this and this has happened to them, particularly with bestsellers and automated checkout systems. The book is already checked out and won't check out to a new patron without being checked back in, the new patron doesn't even notice, and they're out the door with it... and no alarm sounds, because it's still checked out on your card.

Chances are it will work fine a few times before we catch on or someone picks up your book, but it's not necessarily a good idea. Just pay the stupid 50 cents or whatever.

By anon893 — On May 08, 2007

We keep track of users who make "claims returned" claims a lot. Good way to lose your library privileges.

By dmcmorris — On May 04, 2007

I generally agree that rifling through a persons' bag is a privacy issue. As RFID catches on, you can scan a persons' bag without ever looking in.

We get quite a few items' shelved that aren't checked in. We've traced this back to a staff issue of one (and on some occasions a second) staff member. What seems to happen more often is fines aren't marked paid when they have been (again, comes back to the same 2 clerks).

Here's the fact... Libraries don't care much for the fines... They're there to encourage you to get your items back on time. In all honesty, I waive probably 50% of fines that come to my attention for various reasons.

If you have a legitimate reason where you cannot reasonably return the items on time, bring this to the clerks' attention. Examples may be hospitalization, sickness, or the like. If you lost it underneath a bed or whatever, I generally wouldn't consider this a "valid" excuse. If you are going to be overdue with it, get in touch with the library asap. Call them, and explain the situation.

The fact is, doing it the way outlined in this message is a dis-service to other people (not just the library). When it shows "out" in the computer, people aren't going to look for it "just in case". Also, many libraries' will mark an item "claimed returned" (or similar) in the system. Even if the item is resolved, exceeding a set limit of claimed returned items could cause your library privileges to become suspended.

For heaven's sake, just return the books on time. If you can't, renew them (you can renew them in advance usually... for example, if you think it might be due this week just call ahead and renew... it may not be due for a couple days, but it keeps you fine-free!). If you're not habitually overdue, feel free to ask them to waive the fines (it's pretty bold and some won't honor without a good excuse, but if it's only once in a blue moon we usually will).

By keeping your books overdue or going through a scheme like this to "dodge" fines, you're making it inconvenient for your peers (not only the library). Imagine this "hot" book is shown as due tomorrow, and you come back 3 days from now and it's overdue...

By anon780 — On May 03, 2007

I'm also a librarian and this doesn't work at libraries who use even the most slightly modern check-in system. Most systems have a feature called claims-returned which tracks people who claim this very thing. Once the number of claims reaches a set number (which varies by library) - we simply no longer believe you and hold you fully responsible for all fines.

Here's a tip: Try bringing your items back on time and being a little more responsible and you won't have this problems.

By anon675 — On May 01, 2007

This would perhaps work once or twice (honest re-shelving mistakes have been made in the past), but there aren't many people who would try it. It amazes me what a sense of guilt will do for keeping people honest! As for the blocking technique, it is quite the breach of privacy to go through peoples' bags looking for overdue books. Some libraries do look in bags for security reasons, but they do not go through the contents very meticulously. It seems to me that the loss of privacy is not worth the revenue of a small overdue fine.

By anon656 — On May 01, 2007

If you shelve the book correctly and we find it on the shelf after you tell us that you returned it, this might work. The downfalls come from people who don't shelve correctly or that get greedy and try this too often. Librarians will catch on if you try this more than twice!

By anon645 — On May 01, 2007

As a librarian, I have to say that this generally won't work. Anyone who suggests that the books might have been reshelved without being romoved from their library card would make us suspicious - it's just not something that people think about. Trust me, we will outwit you every time!

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