HPL is Fine Free! What Does That Mean?

HPL is Fine Free!  What Does That Mean?


On January 11, 2023, Houston City Council voted to update an ordinance eliminating late fines for Houston Public Library (HPL) materials returned or renewed past their due date. Late fines create a financial barrier for many people in accessing library materials and have been found to be an ineffective way of encouraging returns. Overdue fines had already been eliminated for children’s materials for students at Houston ISD, Alief ISD, and Pasadena ISD with the Learning Link initiative. Many public libraries in Texas and across the country are already fine free.

As part of this launch, HPL will have an amnesty period January 17, 2023-February 18, 2023.  During the amnesty period, anyone who visits the library can have a staff member check their account, and any prior fines or fees will be cleared to give them a fresh start.


What is changing?
Houston Public Library will no longer charge fines for returning or renewing library materials past their due dates.

Interlibrary Loan (ILL) fines and fees still apply, as those are items belonging to other library systems, not HPL.

Will this change discourage returns and make it harder for me to find books?
Studies of libraries in other communities that have eliminated late fees have found that ending late fees actually results in a higher rate of books being returned, as people are less likely to avoid the library if they are not concerned about having to pay money. That means more books in circulation for HPL customers.


Who will this affect?


Any customers who have fines on their Houston Public Library account. All blocked account holders are welcome back to the library as their late fines have been cleared.


Will my current fines be forgiven?


Yes.  All late fines were forgiven when Houston City Council approved the ordinance change on January 11, 2023. To welcome all people back to the library, HPL is holding an amnesty period from January 17, 2023-February 18, 2023.  During the amnesty period, anyone who visits the library will have their accounts cleared of any additional fees, giving all customers a fresh start. When you arrive at an HPL location, as ask a staff member to check your account, and they will help clear out any fees accrued.


Interlibrary Loan (ILL) fines and fees still apply, as those are items belonging to other library systems, not HPL.

What is the difference between fines and fees?


Fines are associated with overdue materials returned past their borrowed due date. Now that HPL is fine-free, fines will no longer be incurred.


Fees are associated with lost or damaged materials. Items are considered lost 30 days after the due date, and customers will still be responsible for any lost fees.  If items are returned undamaged, there will be no fines and the lost charge will be removed.

Will HPL still charge processing fees?


Processing fees will still be charged for lost or damaged books moving forward.  If the item is returned, then the processing fee would be waived.


Will I still need to pay if I lose a book moving forward?


Yes, HPL will still charge for lost or damaged books after the amnesty period ends.  There will not be any fines so long as the item is returned undamaged.


I lost a book last year; do I need to pay for it?


We are holding an amnesty period from January 17, 2023-February 18, 2023, and if you come into the library during that time, and present your card to a staff member, we will clear any account to give library customers a fresh start. Effective February 19, 2023, customers will be responsible for fees related to lost/damaged library items.


I paid for a lost book last month; will I get a refund for that book?


We are holding an amnesty period from January 17, 2023-February 18, 2023, and it is not retroactive. Customers who paid for a lost/damaged book during the amnesty period who come into the library during the amnesty period with proof of payment may also be entitled to a refund.


What if I lost a book but don’t come into the library during the amnesty period?


Amnesty is offered only during the designated amnesty period (January 17-February 18, 2023). If a customer does not come into a library during this period, and present their card to a staff member, the lost fees will remain on the account.  However, if the item is found and returned after the amnesty period, the lost fees are automatically removed and there will not be any overdue fines because of the new fine free policy.


I have fees on my account; can I use my library card?


Cards with unpaid fees totaling $25 or less can be used to borrow materials. Customers may log on to public computers regardless of the fees on their account.


When and how does a customer receive communication about overdue items?


Courtesy item notification emails are sent 3 days before the due date and after an item becomes overdue at both 3 and 14 days. The item is billed at 30 days overdue. Cardholders can edit their contact information by logging in to their account online to ensure proper delivery of notifications.


Can I work out a payment plan for my current fees?


Please speak with Ask HPL at 832-393-1313 to discuss options.


If I am unable to use my card, can I still use the library to read books or use the computers?


Anyone can use public computers and Wi-Fi, read books, do research, attend Library events, and use most of our online databases in-house without a Library Card.


Will the revenue of the city be affected by the removal of fines?


The amount of revenue from fines is less than 1% of the Library’s budget.
I was just told that I owe a fine for an Interlibrary loan.  I thought HPL wasn’t charging fines anymore?


Interlibrary loans are coming from other libraries that still charge fines and fees. These fines/fines will still be charged.
  • Last Updated Jun 27, 2023
  • Views 3778
  • Answered By Lauren Wilcox

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