Fines Free FAQ

Explore... Learn... Connect... without fines!

As of January 3, 2022, the Great River Regional Library is "Fines Free." This means that overdue fines do not accrue on late materials. Find answers to your questions here. 

Why did the library eliminate fines?

This initiative began in 2019 with the elimination of overdue fines on children and teen materials. Local research conducted by St. Cloud State University Survey Center for GRRL’s user/non-user surveys in 2018 identified transportation and finances to be the biggest barriers to the people that need library services the most. For those who rely on transportation by the public or a parent, returning materials in a timely manner can be difficult. Then when fines begin to accrue after the due date, it becomes another expense for a family. Being mindful of our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, we are working to eliminate this barrier for families in central Minnesota. The goal of this expansion is to reduce the financial barrier that may prevent patrons from accessing library materials and to increase the amount of time our staff spends assisting library users in a positive way.

How does this impact the library's budget?

Great River Regional Library is a joint powers organization with six member counties of Benton, Morrison, Sherburne, Stearns, Todd, and Wright. Each county provides representatives for the GRRL Board of Trustees, and the Board develops and administers one comprehensive budget for the system. The 2022 budget supports the expansion of the library's fines-free initiatives. These fines are a declining revenue source and made up only 1% of the budget. They are neither guaranteed nor reliable, therefore the Board moved forward with the effort.

Are there still due dates?

Yes. Due dates and loan periods are still the same, and we expect items to be returned on time. Just renew or return by the due date, so your fellow library users may enjoy the resource too.  You may renew items up to twice, as long as one one else is waiting for the item. 


National research shows overdue fines have little impact on the timely return of library materials. Libraries across the country that have done away with overdue fines have not seen a significant increase in items returned late upon going Fines Free. Chicago Public Library actually saw a 240% increase in returned books in the month after they eliminated fines in September of 2019, and Salt Lake City’s Public Library saw late returns drop from 9% to 4% after fines were eliminated.

Does this mean I can keep library items as long as I want?

No. Library cardholders are responsible for returning or renewing their materials by the due date so other patrons can enjoy them. Accounts with items overdue for 10 or more days will be blocked from further checkouts. Items not returned after 45 days of the due date are considered "lost" and patrons are billed for the replacement charge.

Do I still have to pay for lost or damaged items?

Yes. This "Fines Free" change only applies to overdue fines. Charges for lost or damaged items still apply.

I always considered fines as my donation to the library. Can I give back?

Yes! If late fines never prevented you from using your library, the library asks you to consider paying it forward. Donating is an opportunity to give back and show your support of your library going Fines Free. With the help of generous donors, we can remove the financial barrier of fines to allow everyone to explore, learn, and connect in their community. Find ways to support the library by visiting the Support the Library page.

Does this mean it will take longer to receive my requested items?

Most libraries that have gone fines free have not seen an increase in overdue items. In other words, most people still return their books, music CDs and other library materials on or soon after the due date. If people do not return their items, there are consequences


In addition, GRRL staff run regular reports to see how many people have requested and item, and when we need to, we purchase additional copies. Most of the time, we purchase one item for every six requests. We have been monitoring our request lists weekly since going fines free, and and we have not experienced a noticeable change in our request queues.

More questions? Let us know!