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How to Avoid Library Fines

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Library fines… this is a regular topic of conversation in many of the home schooling message boards that I belong to. I see threads complaining about the expense and comparing to see how has paid the biggest fine. I have always avoided the discussion until I was specifically asked at a home school play date, my response caused quite a stir!

We use the library regularly, I have never paid an overdue fine. (Well, never if you don’t count the one time when I was in third grade and had to pay a $0.05 fine because I was late by a day because I got sick.)

The mothers looked at me like I had just grown a second head. They couldn’t believe that I have never been late returning a book. Apparently they didn’t think that such a thing was possible while homeschooling.

Logically they then asked me for my “secret”. There is no secret so I’ll share my tips with everyone.

library fine cartoon

Keep a detailed list of the books you borrow

It’s easy for books to get scattered through the house and as you check out more and more books it can be hard to remember how many/which books need to go back to the library soon.

If your library has an online system, it may keep track of the books you’ve borrowed automatically. If not, ask your librarian to print you a list when you check out or make a quick list yourself before the books get scattered.

Our library gives us a receipt when checking out so I take that receipt and put it on the refrigerator door and write “library” on the calendar on the due date. They have recently upgraded their system and now send me an e-mail a few days before the books are due which is very helpful!


Have a designated spot for your library books

Having a list helps, but then it means that we have to go on a scavenger hunt to find the books that you need to return so I have created a dedicated spot for library books. You can use a bin, drawer, table, tote, or shelf, any place that your children will know to put the book when it’s not being read. It may take some reminders at first but after a while your children will get used to it and automatically place the books there.


Go to the library regularly

It’s easy to be late if not going regularly and sometimes going too often will lead to having various books with different due dates and it can be hard to remember which one needs to go back first.

Since our library’s loan period is 2 weeks, we visit every 2 weeks. We may visit more often to attend special library events but my kids know that we don’t check out books “in between”, if they want to check out books sooner we return what we have early.


returned library books earlyReturn books early

If you are done with the books, there is no reason to hang on to them until the last minute. Our library offers a drive through drop box that is available 24/7 so I can quickly drop them off without getting out of the car, even if the library is currently closed.

I also return them early if there is any chance that we may be busy or out of town on the due date.


Use technology to help you

Not every library offers e-mail reminders and online tracking yet, this doesn’t mean that you can’t use technology to save you money on overdue fines.

Before my library started to send e-mail reminders for returns due I used to open the calendar app on my phone while standing in line to check out and just write “Library!” on the date 2 weeks from today. My phone was already synchronized to my Google Calendar so I would get an e-mail reminder and my phone would buzz to remind me.

If you already use a calendar or online task list, it’s easy to do this. If not there are services such as Library Elf that you can sign up for free to do it for you.


But what if I NEED to keep the books longer?

As long as you plan ahead you probably won’t have to pay!

Sometimes you didn’t finish the book in time or your kids are really enjoying it and want to keep it longer. As long as you notify the library by the due date and there is nobody waiting to check out that specific book they’ll be happy to renew the loan and give you an extension and you won’t have to pay any fines. I have also used this feature when I can’t find the book on time but know that it’s somewhere around the house.

I hope that these tips will help you take advantage of the library’s services without affecting your budget.

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White collar hippie, tree hugger and crunchy mama living in Florida with her husband and 2 sons. Virtual bookkeeper, breastfeeding counselor along with homeschooling her children.

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