No More Late Fees

In 2019, Portsmouth Public Library went fine-free. This was our marketing campaign. I wrote all messaging and created all the designs for this campaign. Read on for the full description, or see the article in the Portsmouth Herald!

The library has always been free. We think it should be free-er.

As of January 1, 2019, the Portsmouth Public Library no longer charges late fees.

We’re also giving everyone under 18 a one-time clean slate, on February 1, 2019.

Note that the library will continue to charge for lost and damaged items. If you lose materials or return items with damage, you will still need to pay for the replacement cost.


For us, librarianship is about working toward freedom, equity and fairness. We strive to protect the rights of people who use the library. For the past year, the staff here at Portsmouth Public Library has been focused on removing barriers to access for folks in Portsmouth and the Seacoast community.

We believe that economic adversity prevents people in our community from using the library. In order to return items, you need a reliable schedule and access to transportation. If you cannot return items on time, and are faced with charges you cannot pay, you no longer have access to the library. While late fees are only one piece of this puzzle, we believe that eliminating them will allow more Portsmouth residents to use the library to its fullest.

In addition, it has been demonstrated that the imposition of fines does not act as an effective deterrent to the late return of materials.

We also hope that giving all youth library cards a clean slate will bring people back to the library, who may have been excluded for years as a result of the balance they carried.


Late fees have represented a small fraction of the library’s budget. We believe this is a necessary and worthwhile step to reach more of our community. Libraries all over the country agree – it is a growing trend throughout the United States.

In fact, many library systems have reported that removing late fees has not resulted in an increase of overdue materials. Portsmouth Public Library is committed to monitoring availability of library materials so you will not see a change in service.

If you are moved or inspired by the change, you are certainly welcome to make a donation to the library to help us continue our work.

What Else Do I Need to Know?

  • Previous fines for adults will not be forgiven.
  • Fines that have already been paid will not be refunded.
  • Have a balance on your account? Call us at 603-427-1540 or visit the Circulation Desk – we want to talk.