Follow TV Tropes

Ludicrously Large Library Late Fine

Go To

Up For Grabs

This work is a proposed Trope, Tropers can vote and offer feedback in the comments section below.
Proposed By:
Ian on Jul 18th 2011 at 5:24:06 PM
Last Edited By:
darkemyst on Sep 8th 2017 at 1:52:18 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: Trope

Up for Grabs

What do I do? What do I do? This library book is 42 years overdue. I admit that it's mine but I can't pay the fine— Should I turn it in or hide it again? What do I do? What do I do?
Overdues, Shel Silverstein

Basic rule of the library: get your books back on time or pay a fine. It's a trivial amount, just 5 cents per day overdue, but what if you forgot to return it for a really, really long time? Years later when you discover said book, a feeling of dread wells up within you. You want to return the book, you really do, but the pennies-a-day have added up, and that late fee is now a four or five figure amount. Doing the right thing is really going to cost you, and don't expect any sympathy from the Scary Librarian.

Rest assured, there is of course, little real-life basis to this trope; libraries cap their fees well below the cost of replacing the book, as they would rather not be inconvenienced with having to do so. Still, for the sake of comedy most shows overlook this.

Needs a Better Title —-

Examples:

Anime and Manga

Audio Play

  • In Big Finish Doctor Who 111 The Doomwood Curse The Sixth Doctor travels through time in order to bring back a book which he had in his possession for over 300 years. He describes the fees the Alexandrians would exact would be "Many and painful."

Comics

Film

  • In the Rick Moranis film Big Bully, Moranis' character returns to his old hometown only to discover that the elementary school librarian still remembers him and expects to be compensated for a book (Green Eggs and Ham) he checked out in first grade and never returned.

Live-Action TV

  • Lister's first concern after emerging from a 3 million year cryostasis.
  • An unfortunate library patron from an episode of Between the Lions has to pony up. Although considering the library is run by lions, this trope is far from the worst thing that could have happened to him.
  • Seinfeld: Jerry is tracked down by a library security officer for a book 20 years overdue. Jerry claims he returned the book but ends up paying the fine, the amount of which is not revealed. (Kramer says that at 5 cents a day it'll be $50,000.)
  • Cordelia in Buffy the Vampire Slayer mentions that she had a philosophy book out for a very long time in order to attract college boys. When she had to take it back, the fine was huge.

Real Life

  • According to one report, foreign embassies in the U.K. owe a fortune in late fees for failure to pay a "congestion levy". However, according to some, the levy may violate international law.
  • According to this source, George Washington owes $300,000 for some books he didn't return.
  • According to the Guinness World Records, the largest fine ever paid was $345.14, the amount owed at two cents a day for the poetry book Days and Deeds checked out of Kewanee Public Library, Illinois, USA in April 1955 by Emily Canellos-Simms. Although the book was due back 19 April 1955, Emily found it in her mother's house 47 years later and presented the library with a check for overdue fines.
  • Late Library Books Can Take Toll on Credit Scores - The largest overdue accounts the Queens Library system's professional enforcer can recall have reached $10,000.
  • There was a fine of over 10,000 Pounds for a book that was returned 288 years overdue. Since the borrower was long dead, the fine was waived.
  • The Dallas Library system briefly experimented with having warrants issued for overdue books. It was not a popular policy. Other systems have tried it as well: http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/crime/arrest-warrants-issued-overdue-books

Video Games

  • In Pajama Sam 3: You Are What You Eat From Your Head to Your Feet, the penalty for having an overdue library book is 400 dollars a day. When Sam lampshades this, the librarian screams at him to just have the book back in time.

Western Animation

  • An episode of Courage the Cowardly Dog had Courage try to pay several thousand dollars for an overdue library book. To make matters worse, the Scary Librarian cursed the book causing it to turn whoever touched it into characters from said book (It turned Eustace into a pirate and Muriel into a pixie).
  • The first episode of The Amazing World of Gumball has Gumball keeping the DVD of "Alligators on a Train" long enough to owe a $700 plus late fee.
  • Played with in the Doctor Who animated story The Infinite Quest: The Doctor visits a prison planet and is arrested for a number of crimes including planetary demolition and overdue library books and is given a sentence of 2 billion years. The Fake Governor quips: "He really should have taken back those library books!"
  • [1]: One episode has Arthur lose a popular library book he had just checked out. One night he dreams that the librarian punishes him by forcing him to have a giant and extremely long chain attached to the book, which she can reel back in (along with him) anytime so he doesn't lose another. Yikes! Good thing it was just a dream.

Feedback: 29 replies

Jul 18th 2011 at 7:12:25 PM

  • An episode of Courage The Cowardly Dog had Courage try to pay several thousand dollars for an overdue library book. To make matters worse, the Scary Librarian cursed the book causing it to turn whoever touched it into characters from said book (It turned Eustace into a pirate and Muriel into a pixie).

Jul 18th 2011 at 7:24:19 PM

Jul 18th 2011 at 7:34:24 PM

Oh, and I propose Absurdly High Late Fee - just a thought.

Jul 18th 2011 at 8:32:35 PM

Seinfeld: Jerry is tracked down by a library security officer for a book 20 years overdue. Jerry claims he returned the book but ends up paying the fine, the amount of which is not revealed. (Kramer says that at 5 cents a day it'll be $50,000.)

Jul 18th 2011 at 8:55:32 PM

Jul 19th 2011 at 3:25:29 AM

Also, libraries will contact the customer by sending a reminder letter or a few. Additionally, you WILL know that the book was lost any time you visit a library within the system again, as library policies generally disallow loaning to customers who have old unreturned, unreplaced loands, or who have accumulated a certain amount of unpaid fees.

Jul 19th 2011 at 7:51:28 AM

Real Life example: In the Dallas/Fort Worth area, there are various automated toll-roads. Drive on one, and instead of stopping at a tollbooth, you simply drive under a camera that snaps a shot of your license plate, and a bill is sent to the address the car is registered under. However, if the bill is sent somewhere else, or maybe you just forget to pay the bill, the late fees rack up to ludicrous extremes. For example, someone could have a total bill in the hundreds of dollars for $10 of tolls.

Jul 19th 2011 at 12:13:33 PM

Not a library example, but a Freak Brothers comic had an imaginary story in which they took their car out of a parking ramp after ten years in storage. The fee was over three hundred million dollars, although much of that was inflation.

Jul 19th 2011 at 1:32:37 PM

According to this source, George Washington owes $300,000 for some books he didn't return.

Rest assured, there is of course, little real-life basis to this trope; libraries cap their fees well below the cost of replacing the book, as they would rather not be inconvenienced with having to do so.

Not true. While many libraries put a cap at the replacement value of the book, others have no cap.

According to the Guinness World Records, the largest fine ever paid was $345.14, the amount owed at two cents a day for the poetry book Days and Deeds checked out of Kewanee Public Library, Illinois, USA in April 1955 by Emily Canellos-Simms. Although the book was due back 19 April 1955, Emily found it in her mother's house 47 years later and presented the library with a check for overdue fines.

Late Library Books Can Take Toll on Credit Scores - The largest overdue accounts he can recall have reached $10,000.

Jul 19th 2011 at 2:03:06 PM

Not sure if this counts, since the amount was never specified, but Cordelia in Buffy The Vampire Slayer mentions that she had a philosophy book out for a very long time in order to attract college boys. When she had to take it back, the fine was huge.

Jul 19th 2011 at 8:24:39 PM

Hayate The Combat Butler has Hayate given one of these by his parents, though it's from a video rental store.

Jul 22nd 2011 at 11:46:56 AM

Another Real Life example: According to one report, foreign embassies in the U.K. owe a fortune in late fees for failure to pay a "congestion levy". However, according to some, the levy may violate international law.

Jul 23rd 2011 at 12:00:41 AM

I wonder if this can be expanded to include other forms of absurd late penalties....

For example, in Space Quest 2, after Roger acquired a "free" Labion Terror Beast Mating Call Whistle via a mail order, he apparently didn't have buckazoids to cover the shipping and handling -- by Space Quest 3, said cost had compounded so much interest that the advertising corporation sent a Terminator-like robot assassin after Roger. And later, in Space Quest 5, sent a she-robot assassin after him for the same reason.

Jul 23rd 2011 at 12:19:46 AM

This would presumably be a subtrope of Shockingly Expensive Bill - there certainly seem to be enough examples!

Possible alternate title: "Obscenely Overdue, Ridiculous Reparations"

Jul 23rd 2011 at 1:32:20 AM

There was a fine of over 10,000 Pounds for a book that was returned 288 years overdue. Since the borrower was long dead, the fine was waived.

Feb 20th 2012 at 3:12:12 PM

Played with in the Doctor Who animated story The Infinite Quest: The Doctor visits a prison planet and is arrested for a number of crimes including planetary demolition and overdue library books and is given a sentence of 2 billion years. The Fake Governor quips: "He really should have taken back those library books!"

Feb 20th 2012 at 7:06:36 PM

The Dallas Library system briefly experimented with having warrants issued for overdue books. It was not a popular policy. Other systems have tried it as well: http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/crime/arrest-warrants-issued-overdue-books

Feb 20th 2012 at 7:12:43 PM

We haven't heard form Ian in forever. I'm slapping an Up For Grabs on this.

Feb 21st 2012 at 6:54:05 AM

Kramer cannot do Math. 50000$ at five cents a day would be appropriate for 2700 years, not twenty. Sundays and holidays included. Unless that library also wanted compounded interest.

Apr 3rd 2014 at 2:17:59 PM

In Big Finish Doctor Who 111 The Doomwood Curse The Sixth Doctor travels through time in order to bring back a book which he had in his possession for over 300 years. He describes the fees the Alexandrians would exact would be "Many and painful."

Apr 4th 2014 at 6:39:18 PM

In a Freak Brothers story set in a dystopian future, they take their car out of parking after ten years, and the bill is over 400 million dollars. However there's evidently been some inflation because Franklin says "Oh, that's not so much" and Phineas digs for a billion-dollar bill.

Mar 10th 2015 at 9:15:52 PM

Western Animation

  • [[Western Animation/Arthur]]: One episode has Arthur lose a popular library book he had just checked out. One night he dreams that the librarian punishes him by forcing him to have a giant and extremely long chain attached to the book, which she can reel back in (along with him) anytime so he doesn't lose another. Yikes! Good thing it was just a dream.

Sep 7th 2017 at 12:47:55 PM

I launched a trope called Extremely Overdue Library Book. Would this be a duplicate of that one, or would it be a Sister Trope?

Sep 7th 2017 at 12:47:55 PM

I launched a trope called Extremely Overdue Library Book. Would this be a duplicate of that one, or would it be a Sister Trope?

Sep 7th 2017 at 12:48:41 PM

Sorry for double-posting. I hit the button twice accidentally.

Sep 7th 2017 at 1:32:53 PM

Video Games

  • In Pajama Sam 3: You Are What You Eat From Your Head to Your Feet, the penalty for having an overdue library book is 400 dollars a day. When Sam lampshades this, the librarian screams at him to just have the book back in time.

Sep 8th 2017 at 1:52:18 PM

Added the library examples, leaving the The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, Space Quest, and Real Life toll roads examples to be discussed as I'm not sure they really fit.

Top