You know that copy of Looking for Alibrandi that’s been wedged between your old bed and the wall at your parents’ house since 2005? Well the heat’s off: you can finally return it and dodge that huge fine.

Between July 2016 and February this year, the City of Sydney trialled an amnesty program – not unlike the one where people return their guns free from prosecution – for library-goers with overdue books.

The results were a sad indictment of where we’re at, collectively. Over the course of the six-month trial, more than triple the amount of overdue items were returned than in the previous year.


“It has resulted in the return of books many in the library thought we’d never see again. One book included a postcard from Prague that dated back more than 10 years.

“Ironically, many of the overdue books were in the self-help category, including books offering advice on how to de-clutter and tidy up,” says Lord Mayor Clover Moore.

It would seem that fining people was counter-productive and resulted in more library resources never finding their way home. “Library fines have always been used to deter people from leaving their books at home. But we’ve found that in most cases they had the opposite effect, frightening members into never returning their overdue items,” Moore says.

The trial saw more than 65,000 overdue items returned and has prompted the City of Sydney to extend the good will until 2021. Tardiness, however, will still earn you a slap on the wrist. “Under the new system, the library memberships will be suspended until an overdue item has been returned, an approach which has been welcomed by our members,” says Moore.

According to the Lord Mayor, there are two copies of Chopper’s autobiography that are almost 14 years overdue, and she seems pretty keen to get them back. If you’re the cheapskate hoarding them, this is the ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card, so get your act together.

City of Sydney Libraries
Customs House
Green Square
Kings Cross
Surry Hills
Town Hall House