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.
- Issue #2 of Dynomutt introduces Mastermind, a villain created specifically for the comic book as he never appeared in the cartoon. His plot involves manipulating machines (Dynomutt is no exception). But he winds up getting put in jail for failing to return a library book when he was a child and letting the late fee accrue.
- There is a Donald Duck comic in which Donald's nephews discover that Donald has a couple of library books in the attic that are ten years overdue. After having calculated the overdue fee and concluding that he will never be able to pay it, Donald desperately attempts to get rid of the books, but due to his perennial bad luck, the books keep finding their way back to him. After breaking into the library at night to return the books unseen and nearly getting caught by the police, he discovers the very next day that the library has decided to waive all fees for overdue books.
- 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.
- 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.
- One Crankshaft storyline had his neighbor Lillian discover a decade-overdue book, and expect to have to pay an enormous fine.
- Triptych Continuum: Some of Twilight's library patrons have overdue books for months, if not years.
- In one omake of Where Talent Goes to Die, Kaori Miura, the protagonist, finds an old library book with her library card. By this point, she's aware of how much time has passed since the Tragedy despite lacking her memories, and is shocked at how overdue the book is.
- 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, and now gets nervous whenever he sees the librarian around town.
- 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.
- Rivers of London: In Moon Over Soho, Peter finds a copy of the Principia Artes Magicis among the deceased Jason Dunlop's things that was checked out of Oxford University's Bodleian Library by Geoffrey Wheatcroft in 1941, 71 years before (the book is set in 2012).
- Austin & Ally: In "Cap and Gown & Can't Be Found", Ally's chances of graduating are halted when she discovers she has a library book long overdue. Austin, Dez and Trish try to great lengths to find the book, purchase a copy and return it themselves, but their plans fail spectacularly; in the end, Ally gets around this problem by paying a fine.
- 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.
- Liv and Maddie: The subplot of the episode "Ask Her More-A-Rooney" has Maddie realize she has a library book that's been overdue for years and unless she returns it, she won't be able to graduate. Turns out, Joey and Parker have been using the book as a support beam for the Parker Tunnels, and if removed, the house could fall apart. To get around this, they swap the book with Karen's Thai cookbook, which is the same size and width, and successfully return it, only to find out the cookbook has all of Karen's important documents in it.
- 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.
- 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!"
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The first episode of Mystery Show featured a variation. Starlee's client, Laura, rented a movie and wanted to return it the next day, but couldn't because the store had suddenly shut down. A decade later, Starlee finds the store owner and gives him a different copy of the movie, which is a double-feature with another film that she "threw in as a late fee."
- In Kingdom of Loathing, you can find a very overdue library book in the bedroom of a Procrastination Giant.
This library book is so overdue that if it weren't for the bookplate, you'd have thought it predated the invention of the library.
- Puyo Puyo: Klug has been actively averting this ever since before Puyo Puyo Fever, by making regular trips to the Primp Town Library to renew his lease on the Record of Sealing, abusing the fact that the library does not appear to have a limit on such renewals, much to the chagrin of the librarian, Akuma.
- The remake of Wild ARMs has you go to Curan Abbey to find the De La Metallica, an extremely rare book on alchemy. The book they have is only a copy of the original and the abbey's librarian says it is way overdue. She gives you the student's ID card. It says Z. Roughnight, indicating Rudy's late grandfather borrowed the book and never returned it. Extremely overdue indeed.
- Deltarune: Kris's brother Asriel has apparently failed to return a book titled "How to Draw Dragons", which features an immodestly dressed dragon girl on its cover, for 2,583 days (a little over 7 years). Berdly is quick to berate Kris for this, and Checking it at the start of Chapter 2 will have Kris note that Asriel will never return it.
- In Girl Genius Tarvek thinks he must have an overdue book (he'd spent the recent 2 1/2 year Time Skip in stasis, during which time he naturally could not return library books) 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- Carl²: 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.
- In an episode of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, it's revealed that Shaggy has one of these—apparently when he was in preschool or Kindergarten, Shaggy had checked out a book called "Pizza Parrot and the Butterbean Bunnies" from the old Coolsville Library, but one day, when he ran to his house to grab a snack, the book fell out of Shaggy's backpack and Scooby accidentally buried with a bunch of his bones. Though in Shaggy's defense, he was ultimately never able to return the book because the library ended up shutting down not long after that. The villain of the episode was portraying the ghost of the old librarian and wanted to get the book that Shaggy checked out because it's a very rare book, and thus very valuable.
- In an episode of Angela Anaconda, Angela finds a library book in her collection of books that is a few years overdue. Fearing that her parents may be slapped with a big fine for not returning the book, Angela tries to sneak it back into the library without anybody noticing, only to find out that it was a used library book that her mother bought for her when it was on sale.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic had an episode where Twilight worries that she may have caused her favorite librarian to lose her job when she realizes she never returned a book she checked out years ago. It turns out that all said unreturned book did was break said librarian's perfect record and said librarian had an epiphany that she didn't need to be perfect and it was in fact holding her back from being truly happy, so she quit on her own and started really enjoying her life as a result. Also, it turns out the library caps its fees after one month late and it's only 28 bits, and Twilight was even allowed to keep the book because they got newer editions in the interim. On the downside, Twilight's portrait as the library's perfect book borrower gets taken down.
- As shown in the page quote, the Peppa Pig episode "The Library" has Daddy Pig return a book called The Wonderful World of Concrete to the Library... which turns out to be 10 years overdue. Miss Rabbit and Peppa immediately (but briefly) chide him for it.
- An episode of I Got A Rocket involves Vinnie finding a set of library books in his backpack that he borrowed years earlier. Because they're "special extended deep storage cryogenic loans" the books are only just barely coming due, but he doesn't reach the library in time and is charged $2.75 in late fees, which he can't pay. Rocket tries to fly the books back in time in order to avoid the late fees, but this backfires and Vinnie now owes $4,000,000,000.46 in late fees.
- In the Family Guy episode "Friends of Peter G.", during the "Mr. Booze" musical number, Bruce claims that he had a book checked out from the library that he forgot about for three-and-a-half years. He was going to take it back on Amnesty Day, but on that day, he had a sip of Rosé wine and never made it out of the house.
- 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 the police to escort them out.
- Arrests have happened over unreturned library materials but tend to be rare. A specific example was Jory Enck who was arrested in Copperas Cove, Texas for not returning a study guide for three years. The city had enacted the law because of ongoing problems with library patrons not returning materials.