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Santa Barbara Public Library Fine Free FAQ

When does the new Fine Free Policy go into effect?

As of July 1, 2019, the Santa Barbara Public Library will no longer charge fines for overdue materials. 

Why have you stopped collecting overdue fines?

Studies have shown that overdue fines are a barrier to library usage, especially for children. We want all of our patrons to feel comfortable checking out materials from the library without worrying about overdue fines. 

How does the new Fine Free Policy work?

Overdue fines are not charged for late items returned to any of the Santa Barbara Public Library branches. However, because the Santa Barbara Public Library is part of a consortium called Black Gold, if an item is returned to a non-Santa Barbara Library that does not have a fine free policy, you may still be charged fines. Currently, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara are the Black Gold libraries that are fine free. As of July 1, 2019, Santa Barbara Public Library consists of the following branches:

Carpinteria Library, 5141 Carpinteria Avenue, Carpinteria

Central Library, 40 East Anapamu Street, Santa Barbara

Eastside Library, 1102 East Montecito Street, Santa Barbara

Montecito Library, 1469 East Valley Rd., Montecito

If you fail to return your items after 30 days, they will be considered lost and you will be responsible for replacement costs unless it is returned.

After 60 days, if the item has not been returned, the replacement cost is permanent.

I returned something late before July 1 and wasn't charged a fine...

The changes to our computer system to remove fines began several days before July 1 to ensure the process worked. 

What is the difference between a fine and a fee?

Fines are punitive. Fees are charged for library services such as replacement library cards, copying, printing, damaged items, lost items, etc..

Will materials still be eligible for renewal?

Yes! If your account is in good standing and the item you have checked out is not requested by another patron, it will be eligible for automatic renewal up to five times.

Will I still receive reminders about returning materials?

Yes! You will receive notices in the following order:




2 days before item is due


3 days overdue


10 days overdue


24 days overdue


30 days overdue:

Patron is billed for replacement and processing fees


63 Days overdue, with $40 or more owed: 

Patron is forwarded to a Recovery Agency.

How is the Library budget affected by the loss of fine income?

Overdue fines made up less than one percent of the Library’s annual revenue. In a study of Santa Barbara’s fine costs, it was determined that the library spends more on staffing and other resources collecting fines than it receives from overdue fines.

I think of paying my fines as my donation to the library. Can I still donate?

Of course! Financial donations can be made online on the secure Black Gold consortium portal here, or by check, addressed to: Santa Barbara Public Library c/o Library Administration, P.O. Box 1019, Santa Barbara, CA 93102.

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