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Fine Free Library

The Cambridge Public Library is fine free! We no longer charge fines on late returns or renewals. This ensures that everyone in our community has access to library books and materials, regardless of their circumstances.


Why did the Library go fine free?

The Library is for everyone. 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 ensures equitable access to library services for everyone in our community.

Late fines are not effective or necessary. Studies have shown there is not a significant difference in return rates between libraries that charge fines and fees and those that do not. Many other libraries have gone fine free and seen positive impacts for their community. We have 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 may enjoy them.


What fine free means for you

You will no longer receive an overdue fine for late returns or renewals of all borrowed items. 

You are still responsible for returning your items, so that others may enjoy them.

We will email you reminders to return your items.

You will be billed for items that are 4 weeks overdue. If you return the item, the bill will be cleared from your account.

To support families and young readers, we will clear bills for lost/damaged Cambridge-owned children’s and young adult materials under most circumstances, even if you cannot return the item. In the event of repeated occurrences, a librarian will reach out to you.

Bills still apply for unreturned or damaged Cambridge-owned items for adults. We cannot clear bills for items owned by other libraries. If you check out items at another MLN library, you are subject to that library’s borrowing policies, which may include overdue fines. Please contact us if you have questions about the status of your account.



In July 2020, the City of Cambridge announced the Library would 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. The one-year pilot of the fine free program begins in October 2021, now that libraries have reopened following pandemic closures.