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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? It might seem reasonable for libraries to 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. Many of them have banned late fees because these fees can 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 some had to say.


Fiona Sheehy, 9

Pelham, New York

Libraries should charge late fees. 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 the next time. 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, at least the fees will help the library. The money can go into hosting fun events, which brings in 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. There are many kids who 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 make an effort to 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, to keep it safe, and to bring it back by a specified time so other people can benefit from reading it. Otherwise, you’re breaking a trust.

Many people reserve a popular book to make sure they get a chance to read it. Imagine how frustrating it would be to have 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, for example, we often misplace library books because 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.