Fine-free FAQ

The Stoughton Public Library is Fine-free!

Effective immediately, the Board of the Trustees has decided to cease charging daily overdue fines for materials checked out at the Stoughton Public Library.

Read the resolution passed by the Library Board here: Fine Free Resolution - September 16, 2020

Q: Why are you getting rid of overdue fines?

A: In recent years, public libraries have come to recognize fines as a barrier to access. By definition, library fines are regressive in the sense that they disproportionately impact those who are least able to pay them. Simply put, public libraries believe that no one should be denied access to the library or its collection because of an inability to pay.

Most of the libraries in Dane County are now fine-free as well. Since fines are assessed based on the library at which a book is checked out, this means that most patrons in Dane County are not being charged fines for an item owned by our library that they request via LINKcat. It simply isn’t fair to continue to nickel and dime our patrons.

Q: Won’t the library suffer financially as a result?

A: No. Overdue fines made up a very small portion of our annual revenue, about 1.5% and shrinking every year. Furthermore, the cost of assessing, maintaining, and collecting overdue fines often outweighs any revenue generated by them.

Q: Does this mean I can keep a book or other item for as long as I want?

A: No. Standard due dates still apply. Library users will still be charged replacement costs for items that are lost or damaged. If an item is not returned or renewed within 28 days of the due date, the item will be considered lost and a replacement charge will be added to that user’s library account. That user will be blocked from checking out additional items until the charges are paid or the items are returned.

Q. What types of charges may still be incurred on my library account?

A. If an item is overdue for 28 days, it will be considered lost and a replacement cost will be charged to your account. Additionally, if an item is damaged or a part is missing from an item when it is returned, you may still be charged for the item.

Q. Are there any exceptions to the fine-free policy?

A. Yes. There are two important exceptions in which overdue fines will still be charged:

          1. For items checked out by Stoughton Library cardholders at other South Central Libraries that still charge overdue fines.

          2. For items borrowed from outside of the South Central Library System through Outerlibrary Loan. These items are loaned to our library by academic or public libraries in Wisconsin and across the country. If items are consistently returned late, this can negatively impact our ability to borrow in the future.

Q. How long will it take for charges to be taken off of my account?

A. Library staff are working hard to waive existing fines accrued at our library as quickly as possible. We appreciate everyone’s patience! If the overdue fines on your account are preventing you from using the library, give us a call at 608-873-6281 and we’ll be happy to take care of those charges right away.

Q. I always thought of fines as a way to support the library. How do I continue to support the library, if not through fines?

A. Great question, and thanks for your continued support! As always, the library relies on gifts and donations to purchase additional materials and fund programs for all ages. Donations to the library or to the Friends of the Library group can be mailed to the library to the attention of Director Jim Ramsey. Donations can also be made online through the City of Stoughton’s secure web portal here (Please note: a small service fee applies).