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Should Libraries Charge Late Fees?

Have you ever been fined for returning a book to the library after its due date? Many libraries charge late fees. How else would they get anyone to return their books? But the practice could be on its way out, at least for public libraries. Some say these fees discourage people from using the library. And the whole purpose of a library is to make books available. So we asked our readers what they think about late fees. Keep them? Or get rid of them? Here’s what four kids had to say.


Fiona Sheehy, 9

Pelham, New York

Do you enjoy discovering a new book at the library? You might not get a chance if other kids don’t return the books they’ve borrowed. Paying a fee will teach them to be responsible. This is the kind of self-responsibility kids will need when they get older and have a job.

But if borrowers are going to return books late, the fees will help the library. The money can go into hosting events, which brings more visitors. And it can be used to make the library a better place, such as by adding cushions. So late fees are a must.


Aiden Robinson, 10

Foster City, California

Libraries should not charge late fees. Lots of people borrow books from public libraries and return the books late. It’s often just a mistake. Some people just need time to finish a book.

I’ve read that fines at some libraries have reached $50 for a couple of books. Many kids can’t afford that kind of money. And imposing a late fee doesn’t make people more responsible. What works is sending reminders, and providing more overnight book drops. That happened in Brooklyn, New York, and it worked.


Fatemah Saad, 12

Lahore, Pakistan

Late fees are necessary. If there’s no penalty for late returns, people might not return books on time. When you borrow a book from a library, you’re entering into a contract. You’re promising to read the book in the time you’re given. You’re promising to keep it safe and bring it back so others can read it. Otherwise, you’re breaking a trust.

Many people reserve a book to make sure they get to read it. It’s frustrating to wait for a late return. Fees remind us of our responsibility to others.


Liat Brody, 8

Ontario, Canada

Late fees are unfair. People make mistakes. In my house, we often misplace library books. They get mixed in with books we already own. This probably happens to other people too. And if they’re charged for their mistake, they might figure they shouldn’t go to the library at all.

The library should encourage reading. Late fees do just the opposite. They make borrowing a library book seem like it’s not worth the trouble. We should be able to borrow a book without having to worry about paying a fee. That’s how a library should be.

The Next Debate: Should extreme adventure tourism be allowed? Email your opinion to by February 29, 2024. Your response might be featured in an upcoming issue.

*Submissions have been edited only for length and clarity. They are not intended to reflect the views of TIME for Kids. Ages are accurate as of the time of submission.