I've written about the many benefits of using public libraries, but there is certainly a negative aspect: late fees. My family regularly pays late fees to the library. I try to justify them to myself by considering them a charitable contribution, but I do try to eliminate the fines as much as possible. Over the years, I've discovered that the best way for me to avoid late fees involves several parts:
- First, designate a single location for library books to live. We use a drawer in the dining room but you also might use a particular bookshelf, a tote bag, or a pile on your bedside table. Keeping library books centrally located makes it easier to find them for returning. If you have kids, train them to return their books to that place. (Easier said than done, I know!)
- Second, sign up for electronic and/or telephone reminders. Most library systems offer automatic phone calls or emails a few days before your books are due.
- Third, use your library's internet services to renew books before the due date. Most libraries allow you to renew two or three times, allowing you a few days to make it to the library.
- Put older children on their own library account, and make them pay their own late fees.
I try to make a habit of renewing our books as soon as I see the reminder email from the library. If I fail to do it the first day, I still have another day to remember!
Putting together a plan to avoid fines is an important part of using the library to save money. If you are paying $20 in fines on borrowed books, using the library isn't very cost-effective!