Return your books or go to jail. (Photo: Elnur/

Overdue library books are finally becoming the sort bad boy signifier nerds have always wanted them to be, at least if one Alabama library gets its way. According to Oddity Central and elsewhere, the Athens-Limestone public library is set to try enforcing jail time for certain library fines.

The library is sitting on around $200,000 worth of uncollected fines that it has decided it is finally going to start getting serious about. The library has seized onto a city ordinance that says anyone who used a library card to borrow media, but who then “fail or refuse to return” the items, could be on the hook for municipal fines of up to $100, or 30 days in jail, or both. The library allows members to take out up to 25 items at a time, so individual fines can become fairly astronomical in no time.

While the measures might seem a bit draconian, the library officials compare the responsibility of checking things out with a library card to buying things with a credit card. Except in library items, it’s the taxpayers who are really footing the bill for the purchases. 

Patrons will be notified that they have overdue items that need to be returned, giving them time and multiple notifications to send them back ahead of any prosecution. Should the texts, emails, and certified letters from a collection agency not get through, only then will the library get higher authorities involved. The library also said they would not be going after children.

Overdue fines, if you didn’t know, are serious business.