Starting January 1, 2021, Superior Public Library will no longer charge overdue fines for late returns.   We welcome you back to the library if you’ve ever kept items for too long, and encourage you to stop by in person or virtually to see everything our library has to offer!

We know life gets in the way sometimes. Have you ever been snowed in? Had to work out of town? Lost something under your child’s bed? Maybe you weren’t able to return items to the library in time and you had to pay an overdue fine.

We know overdue fines are frustrating, and keep people from using the library.

So, what is our 2021 New Year’s resolution?  To get rid of fines and make the library easier for all people to use!

  • Why the change?
    • Overdue fines act as a barrier to using the library, especially for young people or people whose incomes are not high. We want people of all ages, incomes, and experiences to use our library. Superior and Douglas County benefit from a curious and engaged community, and using the library is a great way to encourage this.


  • How does it work?
    • If you return an item late, you will no longer be charged an overdue fine. We even went back and zeroed out most customers’ existing overdue fines so you can start fresh. If you still have an overdue item that prevents you from checking out more things, just return it and you can borrow again. No late penalty! Overdue items checked out at other libraries in the Northern Waters system, as well as lost or damaged items, will still incur fines and replacement costs.


  • Will my library items still have due dates?
    • Yes, they will still have due dates, and you are asked to return or renew your items by the due date so they are available to others in our community. Libraries work by sharing.


  • What happens if I don’t return my items on time?
    • If you have more than one overdue item you won’t be able to check out any more until you return them. When you return the items there won’t be any fee as long as they are in good condition.


  • No matter how late I return items, I’ll never be charged a fee?
    • Well, no. After 28 days the library will consider the items “lost” and you will be billed the replacement costs. We need our items back for others to use, after all.


  • I didn’t really lose the items--can I still return them?
    • Yes, please do! And the good news is, if you return the items after you receive a bill, there won’t be any overdue fine charged--unless they were so overdue that we had to refer your account to a collection agency. In that case there will be a non-refundable $10 fee to cover those costs. Accounts are referred to collections when they have been overdue for 60 days.


  • Will I still receive reminders about returning materials?
    • Yes. An overdue reminder will be sent by e-mail or text two days before an item is overdue. After that, overdue notices are sent at 7 days, 14 days, 21 days and billed at 28 days.


  • What if I had old fines on my card?
    • Our computer system should have cleared any overdue fines you had. If overdue fines remain, library staff are happy to waive those for you. If you have unreturned items on your account, those replacement costs will remain. If you still have the items, please return them and those replacement costs will be credited.


  • I haven’t used my library card in years!  Will it still work?
    • In Wisconsin, library cards expire after 1 year, so it’s possible your account has been deleted. Simply call the library or stop in to ask a staff member about the status of your card. If we are closed due to COVID and your card has been deleted, you may use our online self-registration to start again! Click here to self-register for a temporary library card:


  • Will people return items if the library doesn’t charge overdue fines?
    • Fines were meant as a way to encourage people to return their items on time. Instead, fines became a barrier that kept some people from using the library altogether. Studies show that libraries that have eliminated overdue fines experience the same rates of return as libraries that do charge fines.


  • I always considered paying my fines as a library donation. Can I still donate to the library?
    • Absolutely!  You can always donate cash or check to the Superior Public Library. Consider becoming a member of the Friends of the Library, or support our library foundation with the donate button on our website:


  • Why did the library decide to go fine free?
    • The Library Board wants to make using the library as easy as possible! Going “fine free” was an objective in our Strategic Plan 2020-2024.  Mayor Paine got on board and supported this goal. He included an increase in the library’s 2021 operating budget that would help the library eliminate overdue fines. He also served as an advocate for the Library Board to make this change.  Libraries all over the country are eliminating overdue fines as a way to reduce barriers, so we are in great company.


  • How much money did the library make from overdue fines?
    • It varied, but typically between $10,000-$15,000 per year. That was less than 1% of the library’s budgeted revenue. But still, you can buy a lot of books for $15,000, so we were very happy for the addition to the library’s budget.


  • How many people will be affected by this change?  How many people couldn’t use the library due to overdue fines?
    • 838 library users will now be able to use the library again!  They are no longer blocked because they owe too many overdue fines. 168 of them are young people under 18. This is a great thing, and we welcome these folks back to Superior Public Library.
    • 3,406 library patrons have had overdue fines removed from their accounts. $33,214 in largely uncollectable overdue fines have been waived overall. We’re eager to see our patrons again after COVID, and encourage you to renew your Superior library card if it’s been a while!