A character goes to the library and checks out a book. However, they are very bad at keeping track of things, and they lose the book. Months, sometimes years later, they find the book again. The character most likely has to pay hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in fines. See also: Shockingly Expensive Bill.
This happens a lot in Real Life. Occasionally the story of a book due 50+ years will be added as a filler in news segments. More often than not, the library will waive the fee as the book is now decades old and can be quite historical. More recently, library fines are capped at a fixed fine (either enough to buy a replacement copy or a set time period after which the fine will stop increasing) so the fine will not break the bank of the poor old man who finds it later in life. Because of this, this trope might be a Dead Horse Trope in the future.
- Foxtrot: In one strip, Paige finds out that she has months overdue library books because when she entrusted Jason to return them, he hid them in her closet.
- Bloom County. In one strip Binkley is awakened by a visit from the creature that lives inside his Closet of Anxieties. The creature has found a book in the Closet and goes to fetch Mrs. McGreevy. As Binkley suddenly remembers that Mrs. McGreevy is a librarian, a giant axe is flung over Binkley's head and hits the wall. Mrs. McGreevy appears, holding another axe, and says:
Mrs. McGreevy: 119 weeks overdue, dear...
- Averted in Calvin and Hobbes:
Calvin: ...This library book was due two days ago! What will they do? Are they going to interrogate me and beat me up?! Are they going to break my knees?? Will I have to sign some confession???Mom: They'll fine you ten cents. Now go return it.Calvin: The way some of those librarians look at you, I naturally assumed the consequences would be more dire.
- At least once in Pearls Before Swine, librarians bring guns to enforce the return of overdue books.
- Triptych Continuum: Some of Twilight's library patrons have overdue books for months, if not years.
- The Brady Bunch: In "The Private Ear," one of Greg's Dark Secrets that he doesn't want anyone to know about, but trusts Marcia to never reveal ... until Peter lets on to his big brother that he knows that the librarian isn't going to be very happy and that he'd better pay up big time, and that he might have to really face the music with the folks.
- In The Zack Files, the pilot episode has Zack having borrowed Alice in Wonderland and it is months overdue. He tries to get it back into the library without getting in trouble, only to realize a page of it had been torn out and stolen by Vernon. Being a Weirdness Magnet, the torn page allows the characters to come to life and put Zack on trial for the overdue book, where Vernon is eventually revealed to be the culprit.
- One episode of Seinfeld has a library enforcer come after Jerry because he checked out a book in high school and never returned it. He loaned it to George who lost it to a sadistic gym teacher who later went crazy and became homeless. Jerry decides to eat the cost of the book.
- Averted on Newhart. Larry, Darryl, and Darryl decide to make a time capsule and ask the other characters for donations. They have to dig it up after a week because one of the Darryls put a library book in it.
- A variation occurred on Step by Step. The parents become concerned with the kids renting many videotapes, some of which they never watched, in a single weekend. They're also forced to buy one movie because Brendan lost it for longer than the maximum fine. While the other kids are punished for their outrageous spending, they lay the blame on Brendan for losing the movie.
- Red Dwarf: Lister's response when informed he was in stasis for three million years. "Three million years?! I've still got that library book!"
- In Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, Greg finds a book, titled How to Make Sock Puppets, that he has had for a long time. He gets worried that he'll get arrested if he returns to the library.
- In Shel Silverstein's book A Light in the Attic, there is a poem about someone who finds a book that is 42 years overdue, admits that it is theirs, and does not know what to do.
- In Girl Genius Tarvek thinks he must have an overdue book when he is kidnapped from Castle Wulfenbach by the Immortal Library. He is reassured his borrowing record is still perfect but it is definitely a library not to forget to return books to.
- In The Spoony Experiment, when Spoony reviews the 1989 fantasy film The Lords of Magick he implies that he borrowed the VHS tape from the library twenty years ago.
- The owner of the game store in Acts of Gord rents out games, rather than books, but has a similar problem. A few of his customers are mentioned as keeping a game for so long that Gord simply bills the customer's credit card for the price of the game, as the late fees eventually exceed the cost of the game.
- In one Time Squad episode, the team is visited by elderly versions of themselves from the future. They were meant to warn them about something, but due to senility, they can't remember what it was. At the end of the episode, they finally remember that they wanted to warn the present team about a library book that they should return, because the financial penalty for it being several decades overdue is astronomical.
- Arthur episode, "Unfinished". Arthur looks for a new copy of a long-out-of-print book called 93 Million Miles in a Balloon when the last few pages of his copy of the book are missing (and later revealed to have been in the pocket of his jacket and ruined in the wash). He finds out that the Elwood City Library did have a copy of the book, but it was checked out ten years ago and never returned, as whoever last borrowed it moved out and left no forwarding address. Ms. Turner vows that if that man ever returns to the Elwood City Library, she will personally revoke his library card.
- Carl Squared: In "Carl's Techno-Jinx", Carl is banned from the library (by a Scary Librarian) for a massively overdue book about puberty.
- Courage the Cowardly Dog: In "Wrath of the Librarian", Courage discovers a copy of The Pixie and the Prickle Pirate that he buried in the yard and forgot about. When he can't pay the huge fine, the librarian casts a spell that turns Muriel and Eustace into the book's title characters, which is reversed when he finally coughs up enough dough.
- In the The Loud House episode, "Read Aloud", Lisa has racked up over $50,000.00 worth of late fees from books she never returned to the library. When she goes to the library with the rest of her family, she wears a cowboy hat and mustache to avoid being recognized by the librarian.
- In the Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends episode, "Jackie Khones and the Case of the Overdue Library Crook", Mac seeks the aid of Jackie Khones to find out who stole his library card and used it to check out a now-overdue book, resulting in Mac being put on the library's Most Wanted list. In the end, it is revealed that Jackie was the one who took Mac's library card and used it to borrow a book about detective work so he could start his own detective agency in the first place.
- George Washington checked out a book that was not returned until over 200 years later.
- This person tried to return a library book that they had accidentally kept for years. It resulted in an argument with the librarian that somehow ended with the librarian charging them more than $100 for the book and calling police to escort them out.