Fines Free, is it Right for Your Library?

Fines Free, is it Right for Your Library?

Key Points Worth Considering when Exploring the Switch to Fines Free:

Staff Friendly– Fines Free with Unique means fewer transactions that reduce time staff spends with each customer and expedites lines at the circulation desk. Unique’s automated process streamlines the process when accounts are overdue.  This means increased efficiency and more flexibility.  Staff can be out on the floor interacting with patrons or doing other tasks; resulting in higher quality customer service.

Budget Friendly – The value gained in staff time saved, maximized material recovery, and increased number of patrons that clear and reuse their library accounts can easily offset Unique’s referral cost.

Patron Friendly – Eliminating fines with Fines Free with Unique is a significant customer experience enhancement. It reduces barriers to service and encourages patrons to return to the library.  Unique’s Gentle Nudge philosophy provides communication that works in conjunction with Fines Free policies and ensures patron goodwill.

Auto-Renew – Libraries that are both Fines Free and use Automatic Renewals find Unique even more valuable as Unique can gently nudge those patrons that have items long overdue and in need of return.  Although both policies give responsible patrons flexibility with the materials borrowed, the timely return of materials is essential.

Maximize Material Recovery – The large amount of material recovery Unique generates is not diminished when a library goes Fines Free with Unique. Unique started as a material recovery service and this remains our number 1 goal today.  It’s the reason we continue to serve so many Fines Free libraries.

Consistent & Timely Recovery – Regardless of how minimal a line item fine revenue is, the need to maintain a quality material collection remains. It is important long overdue materials are returned and returned in a timely manner.  Many library power users appreciate Unique’s help to recover items they have placed on hold for a faster pick up! As a third party with services designed specifically for libraries, Unique garners better, faster material recovery without doing harm to their relationship with the library.

Number of Outstanding Accounts – The number of outstanding accounts remains about the same, except for an initial dip during the months immediately after the change. For many libraries, after 6 months to a year the number of outstanding accounts levels off and returns to the previous number of outstanding accounts prior to the change to fines free.

Average Balance Owed May Increase – Patrons tend to think less about the number of materials they check out when there are no fines. As a result, the number of outstanding accounts can remain the same while the average account balance increases.  One library, for example, saw average monthly amounts owed to the library increase by over 100%.

Increased Outstanding Material – The number of customers paying for and returning overdue books remains similar to what it was prior to going Fines Free with Unique. However, since more material is being kept overdue than before, there is a higher value of materials left outstanding.


Here are a few ways some of Unique’s library clients have gone fines free with confidence and avoided or minimized potential losses:

Tighten Up Notification/Referral Timing – The vast majority of libraries choosing to go Fines Free realize the heightened importance of prompt notification. To counter the tendency for patrons to hold onto materials longer, the timing of overdue, billing, and referral to collections is typically moved up to reflect the following:

  • 1st overdue at day 1
  • 2nd overdue at 7-10
  • bill around day 21
  • Unique intervenes sometime between day 30 and 45.

Do a trial period – One of Unique’s library clients did a ‘Fines Take a Summer Vacation’ promotional event. For 3-6 months no overdue accounts incurred fines.  It allowed them to try out ‘Fines Free,’ gather plenty of data to see if it’s something they wanted to implement permanently the following fiscal year. It was risk-free because it was presented to patrons as a temporary event.

Test the waters – Try going Fines Free with Unique for children’s materials only at first and then rolling it out to all patrons if it proves to work out well.

Get a Sponsor – One library was able to offset the loss of fine revenue by having a local company sponsor the amount of fines the library would miss for juveniles. This is a great avenue of marketing for the local business and a great win for the library and juvenile patrons!

See how we can help by contacting today for a no commitment consultation.