How to Use the Library Without Paying a Fortune in Fines

I will quite likely never forget the day my girls and I were having our usual library visit when I overheard a mother tell her child, “No honey, you can only check out two books — we need to leave some here for the other kids”. I then proceeded to hide behind the nearest book shelf with my several tote bags FULL of that day’s selections.

I recently spoke to two separate friends and fellow homeschool moms about their library lending habits and discovered what might have been the real reason behind that mama’s one book rule: fines and lost books. The first of my friends that I spoke to is as big a book lover as I am, but limits the number of books out for her household to around 25, and the other friend had put the kibosh on library books completely for her family! This was such a surprise to me, as she is the most organized person I know!

I am not a super organized person, nor am I a planner. I’m typically a “fly by the seat of my pants” kinda gal, which incidentally has not always served me well. My cupboards are often full and overflowing, my kitchen counters are by no means clear and uncluttered and our house most certainly looks lived in.  For the most part though, I’m ok with that.

The up to 100 books, CDs, and DVDs we often have checked out from the library at the same time?

Not a problem.

We’ve never lost a single one, and our library fines are not out of control either. I’m here to tell you, if I can do it, you can too (but maybe just start with 50 books though, ok? For the sake of those poor children who show up to the library and discover they are completely out of books).

This is my simple system for ensuring no lost books and a fairly modest amount in library fines:

I keep a designated library bag accessible to collect books that we are finished with. This bag hangs on the doorknob of our front hall closet and is ready to go to the library.

Using the Library in your homeschool without spending a fortune in fines



I have two large baskets for library books in our living room. One is for the more learning/school specific books, the other for all of my children’s other library selections. It is not mandatory that all the books be kept in the baskets, and the children are free to bring books to their room and read them in bed, but it does encourage them to do most of their reading in that room and makes it less likely that the library books will get all mixed up with our own books. It is also the first place we look when a book is due or we need to find it ASAP.



I make a weekly library visit, and always on the same day of the week. This is important because then all our books are always due on the same day of the week.  I only need to check once for the whole week to be sure that we don’t accrue fines. On the morning of that day, I log into our library website and make a list of all the books that are due that day that can’t be renewed. Then I give the list to my oldest and tell her to round them up, which she can usually do without any assistance from me. Once in a while Mama’s super human searching power is required to locate a book that has somehow found itself under a bed or at the bottom of the toy box.

So that’s it! Have a handy place to collect books that you are finished with and to transport them back to the library, store the books that you are still using in a designated place, and make a weekly trip to the library to renew, return, and checkout books.

Over a 1000 items checked out in a year, all for less than $10 in library fines!

If you’d like to hear more about how we make the most of the public library in our homeschool, check out How We Homeschool: Using the Library.

How to use the library without paying a fortune in fines. A couple of simple, easy, and effective ways for homeschoolers to stay on top of their library books and stay organized!

Do you have any tips for keeping library fines under control? What is the largest library fine you’ve had to pay?

Check out how the other members of the Canadian Homeschool Bogging Team are Getting Their Homeschools Organized! And if you haven’t checked out the Canadian Homeschooler’s Facebook event, Organize Your Homeschool in 20ish Days,  it’s not too late hop on over and check it out!

The Canadian Homeschool Blogging Team

Living and Learning at Home


  1. Trena January 27, 2016 at 11:59 pm

    Sounds a lot like my plan! We go every Monday and I have online access to our accounts. Plus, I get an email reminder 3 days before they are due. I have paid an occasional fine. But for the number of books we check out, I would say less than $10 in 10 years (not counting the couple “lost/damaged” books we had when I had toddlers).

    1. Learning Mama January 28, 2016 at 8:48 am

      Monday is our library day too 🙂 Those email reminders are lifesavers/money savers!

  2. Lisa Marie January 28, 2016 at 9:29 am

    I’m that guilty mom. I love the library – but I hate going to the library and we end up just not bothering. I feel like we’ve more or less financially supported our local library system with late fees haha. I get the reminders too. You’d think I’d then log into the account and renew stuff if I knew we weren’t going to the library soon… But no. I am so bad. lol.

    Thanks for the great tips!

  3. Cassandra Holdeman January 28, 2016 at 9:55 am

    We LOVE the library and our system for keeping everything organized is like yours. We also get library emails about upcoming due dates. Every once in awhile we have a fine or two, but it is rare.

    1. Learning Mama January 28, 2016 at 4:13 pm

      Yes, those email reminders are a lifesaver!

  4. Kym January 28, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    My whole family uses my library card and we take out a ton of stuff. It’s not been unusual at all to have 60 things out at a time. We have paid some fines, but not very many, and those that we have paid have more often been for situations like – couldn’t renew the materials but for whatever reason we couldn’t go to the library as planned. The library is a 20 minute drive, so very often I decide that the fine is less than the cost of gas for a special trip. 🙂

    I also have a regular weekly library day and that is the day I renew and return everything.

    And really, the few dollars in fines that I pay are an excellent value considering all the resources available to us!

    1. Learning Mama January 28, 2016 at 4:16 pm

      Same here – we have a 20-30 minute drive for just about everything. The price of gas what it is, a small fine is definitely a better option 🙂

  5. michelle January 28, 2016 at 10:40 pm

    We also keep a bag by the door for the library books. But I didn’t realize that librarys still charge fees for late books. our library doesn’t unless u loose it.

    1. Learning Mama January 29, 2016 at 7:23 am

      I’ve never heard of a library that doesn’t charge late fees! How else could they ensure books are returned in a timely manner, and that the next patron who wishes to read the book can do so?

  6. Annette @a net in time January 29, 2016 at 8:23 am

    We keep them all in one place. Keeps it simple and then they get read too.

  7. Nancy February 2, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    I use the library book bag system in a way. I don’t keep it by the door, though, I use it to tote books around the house. So, what usually ends up happening is when the kids go to bed, we take the bag upstairs and read to our hearts content (um, bedtime). Then all the books go back in the bag and get put in the hall to go back downstairs for the next day of reading in the living room. I find my kids read more if I keep the books handy, and we don’t have space in every room of our house for a floor to ceiling bookshelf (though that’s my dream, sigh). And then on library day (which is mostly the same day every week but sometimes random because I just feeling like being at the library) we grab the bag, make sure all books are accounted for (which they usually are since we keep them in the bag when we’re done reading them), and we head out the door to collect more adventures (um, books). So far, our fines have been minimal. I’m also a big user of the “renew” feature on our library’s website. 😉

    1. Learning Mama February 2, 2016 at 3:46 pm

      I hit “renew”on all my books when they are due — just in case 🙂

  8. Leanne February 6, 2016 at 11:11 am

    I make my children pay the fines out of the spending portion of their very modest allowance if they can’t find a book when it can’t be renewed or if they leave a book where the puppy can get to it. It’s amazing how they can now locate every single item. We are huge library users – hundreds of books checked out at once and we pay less than $10 in fines per year.

    1. Learning Mama February 6, 2016 at 2:02 pm

      That’s a great idea Leanne! A little motivation goes a long way 😉

  9. amy February 6, 2016 at 9:46 pm

    We do much the same thing! Our library is very large and there is no fear of not leaving enough for the other children 😉 so I mostly let my kids check out as much as they want. We try to keep library books under our coffee table, but now and then I have to search for a lost one. I’ve had to pay a few fines, but it’s only been a couple of dollars over 3 years. I try to go on the same day each week as well and then just renew everything online as many times as possible =) So far it has been well worth it!

    1. Learning Mama February 7, 2016 at 3:17 pm

      When we didn’t have a specific library day, I lost track of so many renewals. That is the strategy that has made the biggest difference for us — it is rare that we have any fines now.

  10. Shecki @ Greatly Blessed March 1, 2016 at 9:52 am

    We have a library basket downstairs near the door, too. I always tell my husband, “We support our local library!” He answers, “Yes, but we don’t have to do it single-handedly, okay?”

  11. Katharine March 1, 2016 at 10:30 am

    You do, indeed, have a simple system, but you left out one important step:
    You delegate the round-up! Ha!
    I never, ever, in my 25 years of home schooling, though of that one. How may I request a do-over?! (NOT!) 😀

    1. Learning Mama March 1, 2016 at 5:23 pm

      YES! It is the job of my oldest (and only reader) to round up the books — mommy only steps in if there is a problem 🙂

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