We Eliminated Late Fees… Then What?

In fall of 2022, we eliminated late fees. What happened next?

More Items Returned

Before the change, 4% of CPL items were checked out and overdue. After we eliminated late fees, only 2.4% of items have been overdue.

Fewer Patrons End Up in Collections

If you routinely return your items on time or close to on time, you may not realize that we assume materials kept more than 21 days past the due date are lost, and we will bill you for replacement of the materials. If the billed item is returned in good condition, the replacement cost will be waived, but if you owe $35 or more and you have material 45 days past due, your balance will be sent to collections and a $10 collections fee will be added to your account.

Before we eliminated late fees, 4% of patrons were in collections. After the change, that number has been cut in half.

Fewer patrons are keeping items that long, and in addition, patrons are paying more often for items they have actually lost or damaged. They are also returning billed materials, since they know the replacement bill will be waived (even though they will still have to pay the $10 collections fee). In fact...

Fewer Items Are More Than Three Weeks Overdue

Almost twice as many items as before the change are being returned in the window after a patron has been billed for the material, but before the balance is sent to collections.

Revenue Went Up

More people paying for damaged items means more money to buy new items for our patrons.

And best of all?

More Young Adults Are Staying Connected to the Library

We noticed that before we eliminated late fees, patrons between the ages of 10-24 were more likely than average to stop using the library if they had fines. After the change, we have seen that patrons ages 10-24 are now more likely to keep their library cards active, even if their account is blocked, than patrons younger and older than them—and older and younger patrons are equally likely as before to stay connected.

Want to know more about how we get our materials back? Check out these FAQs.