Fine Free FAQs

Why did Worcester County Library eliminate fines?

The mission of the Worcester County Library is to promote reading, thinking, learning, and the enjoyment of the arts. As a critical resource for low-income families, there is growing awareness in the library profession that fines present a barrier to access these resources, particularly for children. Going fine-free is a growing trend in American libraries, and Worcester County is now one of six systems in Maryland without fines.

The Institute for Museum and Library Services' Project SPELL (Supporting Parents in Early Literacy through Libraries) found that many parents and caregivers said that, while they used the library, they didn't let their children check out books because they didn't want to risk late fines and were afraid they wouldn't be able to return them in time - whether because of work schedules, mobility issues, or lack of reliable transportation.

With increased usage of ebooks, library computers and internet connections, and educational classes offered by the library, overdue fines represent a unique deterrent on library patrons using paper books. In addition, late fees can also backfire, as patrons who can't afford to pay the accumulated fines may decide not to return a book at all.

So if I don't return an item, I won't get charged?

Not exactly. Once an item is three weeks overdue, your account will be charged the replacement cost of the item. These charges will be waived when the item is returned.  In addition, you will still be responsible for items that are damaged or missing parts.

Your card will not be usable until the late item is returned or the charges are paid.

Will you let me know that my item is overdue?

For patrons with email addresses on file, a notice will be sent when an item becomes due, and reminders will be sent one week, two weeks, and three weeks later.  You will be billed for the item and notified by mail when it is 21 days overdue.

You can log into your account to check the status of your items at any time.  Don’t hesitate to call your branch library or ask a staff member if you need assistance.  We can also help add an email address to your account.

What if I want an item that another customer has overdue?

We recommend that you place a hold on the item, which will prevent the item from being renewed.

Other libraries that have gone fine-free have not seen a significant increase in the number of materials returned late (some have even seen decreases) or in wait times on their holds lists.

I have overdue fines from before November 1. Do I still have to pay them?

No. Most pre-existing fines have been automatically removed, and staff can waive any fines that remain. Charges for items that were lost or were damaged will not be waived.

What about fines from other libraries?

Worcester, Somerset, Caroline, and Queen Anne's Counties are now fine-free. Fine policies in the Eastern Shore Library Consortium are based on the location from which you check the item out. If the item was sent to you at a Worcester County Library through the interlibrary delivery system, it will not incur fines. If you travelled to another county to check out the item, that library's rules are applicable.

How do I know if I have any charges on my account?

You can log into your account or ask at the library.

I didn't really lose the items on my account. Can I still bring them back?

Yes! If they are still in good condition, bring them back and the replacement costs will be waived.

I lost my card a long time ago. How do I know if I have an account?

Visit your nearest library location, and the staff will see if you are in the system. Bring a photo ID and something that verifies residency, such as a piece of mail.

Is the library going to lose money by not collecting fines?

Fine receipts are less than 0.4% of Worcester County Library's annual budget.  History has shown that many people stop using the library altogether rather than pay fines and dissuade their children from using the library for fear of incurring fines.

I’ve always thought of paying my fines as my donation to the library. Can I still donate?

Yes! Now and in the future, donations to the Library can be made to the Worcester County Library Foundation. Your donation will support critical Library programs and services.