Fine Free

Elgin County Library is using a phased approach to no longer charging overdue fines on library materials.

Starting April 1, 2023, all adult fiction materials will no longer have overdue fines. This is in addition to children’s materials having no overdue fines as of June 1, 2022.

What does fine free mean?

Overdue fines, or late fees, on library materials will no longer be charged. There will still be replacement costs for library items which are lost so that they can be replaced in our collection. 

Why is Elgin County Library getting rid of overdue fines?

Studies have shown that there is no evidence that late fines make people return library materials on time. In fact, libraries that have stopped overdue fines report the opposite. Late fines also create a financial barrier for community members, which Elgin County Library looks forward to eliminating.

We received overwhelming support when we asked our community what they thought about going fine free. 


Timeline of Elgin County Library's Path to Fine Free

Using the EngageElgin website, Elgin County Library asked library users for feedback on the idea of going fine free. 

A Path Forward on Library Fines at Elgin County Library

The results of the public opinion survey were presented to County Council and recommendations were put forward by library management. Council approved the proposed phased approach which will stagger the removal of overdue fines. 

colourful banner with the words CHILDREN'S MATERIALS NOW FINE FREE

Elgin County Library is very pleased to announce that starting June 1, 2022, the library will begin a phased approach to no longer charge overdue fines on library materials.

Elgin County Library is Going Fine Free News Post

As of April 1, 2023, adult fiction items will no longer have overdue fines. 

At some point in 2024 following reporting to County Council, Elgin County Library will move to Phase 3 of the fine free plan. 

Elgin County Library Fine Free FAQ for Library Users

What does going fine free mean for me as a library user?

  • This means that overdue fines will no longer be applied to your library account on children’s materials starting June 1, 2022 and on adult fiction materials starting April 1, 2023.
  • You are still responsible for any library items that you borrow and are accountable for returning your materials on time, as other customers may be waiting to use these items.
  • If an item has not been returned in an appropriate amount of time, you will not be able to use your library account or card to check out library materials, place holds, or use our digital library, including eBooks, during that time. As soon as the items are returned, your account will be usable again.
  • If an item has not been returned after a significant amount of time, you will be sent a bill for the replacement cost of the item.

How will this affect my digital eBooks and eAudiobooks?

It won’t! All eBooks and eAudiobooks are already fine free. The platforms you borrow those items from return them for you automatically when they are due.

Will I still get reminders about my library materials?

Yes! Items will still have due dates. We currently have a process that provides print and email courtesy notices and these will continue. If you have not already provided an email address, please contact your local library branch.

What if I lose a library book?

If a library item is missing or overdue past a certain amount of time then the item will be billed to the library card. This means that the library card will be billed the replacement cost of the item and prevented from checking out new items. We would rather have the library item back than your money, so if you find the item please return it and the replacement charge will be removed from the account.

What about the library item I borrowed prior to the pandemic?

Bring it back! We just want the item back and fines won’t be added to your account.

How do I know what my borrowing times are?

This information about your due dates will be on the checkout receipt for your library items. You can also find information about our loan periods and fees on our Membership & Fees page.

Will I have to wait longer for items?

No, we do not anticipate any impact on wait times. Libraries that are already fine-free do not notice a difference in how long items are overdue. There will be still be due dates on materials and email notices reminding library users that their items are due.

I think of my fines as a donation to the library, can I still make a donation?

Yes! Voluntary goodwill donations will continue to be gratefully received at all of our ten library branches. Also, you can make a donation on our Support Your Library page. Elgin County Library is a non-profit and can provide charitable donation receipt for donations over $20.

Why is Elgin County Library going fine free with children’s materials first?

Children and teens often cannot get to the library by themselves to return materials on time. This means that overdue fines punish them for something beyond their control. We encourage early literacy, and overdue fines that prevent children or teens from borrowing library items create a barrier to achieving that goal.

Why is Elgin County Library going fine free with adult fiction books second?

Based on our statistics analysis, removing the financial barrier of overdue fines on adult fiction will have the biggest positive impact on our community. It will mean the biggest number of people who cannot use their library cards because of overdue fines will now be able to use the library again!

Other libraries have materials that renew automatically, so books are never overdue unless someone is waiting. Why doesn’t Elgin County Library do that?

This is a great suggestion. We are considering how the autorenewal of library items would fit with our fine free initiative and how it would impact library users.

Are other libraries going fine free?

Yes! All over Ontario, Canada, and North America, we are seeing more and more library systems go fine free. You can find more information about fine-free libraries on this map from the Urban Libraries Council.

I haven’t been to the library in a few years. Will my account still work?

Please come to your local Elgin County Library branch and see us. We will either reactivate your account or set you up with a new one. Welcome back!

Elgin County Library Holiday Hours

Saturday, December 23 at 1pm, all ECL branches are closed

December 24 – January 1, all ECL branches closed

Tuesday, January 2, all ECL branches open for regular hours

Our digital library is open all day every day!