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Fine Free Library

The Library is going fine free! Learn about this upcoming pilot program and how it affects you.


In July 2020, the City of Cambridge announced the Library will pilot the elimination of overdue fines for the late return/renewal of materials and the elimination of replacement fees for lost/damaged Cambridge children’s and young adult materials.

No overdue fines are being assessed during the COVID-19 health crisis. A one-year pilot of the fine free program will begin after normal library services resume to allow for review.

Research has shown that low-income families identify fines and fees as a barrier and deterrent to library use, and that fines and fees disproportionately impact low-income families and neighborhoods. The elimination of overdue fines will ensure equitable access to library services for everyone in our community.

Next Steps

The Library is working to update our policies, procedures and systems to prepare for the official fine free pilot. During the COVID-19 health crisis, no new overdue fines are being assessed, and we have temporarily raised our limits to allow more people to use the library, even if they have account balances.

We will reach out to patrons with more information as we move forward.


I’ve never had a library card. How can I get one?

Register online for a temporary Minuteman Library Network card. The temporary card will give you immediate access to select resources, including ebooks, audiobooks, and video via OverDrive (Libby). After we reopen our buildings, please visit any Library location with a picture ID and proof of address.

I currently have overdue fines or replacement fees on my account. Can I get them removed?

In the coming weeks, the Library will be reaching out to patrons with existing fines and fees as we move forward with the pilot. During the COVID-19 health crisis, we have temporarily raised our fine limits to allow more people to use the library, even if they have account balances. Please contact the Library if you have more questions about the status of your account.

Will people return items if there are no late fines?

The Library has not charged late fines on children’s and young adult items for many years, and patrons have continued to return those items so that others can enjoy them. Research has shown that there is not a significant difference in overdue rates between libraries that charged fines and fees and those that did not.

We will continue to send reminder notices to patrons, and items from collections for adults that are not returned will be billed.

Are there any exceptions to the fine free policy?

The Library will continue to assess and collect replacement fees for lost/damaged items materials for adults and fines and fees specifically related to our resource sharing agreements with other libraries (Comcat, Interlibrary Loan).

Replacement fees for lost/damaged children’s and young adult materials will only be eliminated for Cambridge-owned materials. We cannot waive these fees for items owned by other libraries.

Within the Minuteman Library Network, overdue fines are assessed based on the borrowing policies of the library where the item is checked out. Patrons who check out items owned by Cambridge Public Library at another MLN library will be subject to that library’s borrowing policies.