The Nelson Public Library is joining a growing number of libraries in Canada in a trend that many consider to be long overdue. As of Jan. 1, 2023, the library will be fine free!
No longer will borrowers be charged a fee for returning library items late. Overdue fines accumulated before Jan. 1 will be removed from library accounts.
“If you have library materials at home and were worried about returning them because of the late fines, you can return them guilt free,” said chief librarian Tracey Therrien.
In November the library’s board of trustees agreed to support a budget that would end the library’s practice of charging fines for overdue items. Fines are less than one per cent of the library’s operating revenue. With e-alerts for materials coming due, and a steady increase in the borrowing of digital materials, which are automatically returned, overdue fines are a decreasing and an unstable revenue source for the library.
In the lead-up to the board decision, library staff reviewed data on borrowing trends, cardholder trends, use patterns of other fine-free libraries, and revenue generated by overdue fines. As a result, it became clear that overdue fines and the blocked library cards that often resulted from fines affected services for many Nelson and area residents.
“Overdue fines were originally implemented in libraries as a motivator to return materials on time,” said library board chair Anni Holtby.
“However studies have found that late fees have the consequence of disproportionately impacting lower-income and marginalized populations as well as children and families. Removing overdue fines demonstrates the library’s commitment to equitable access and reducing barriers.”
Local statistics demonstrate that Nelson residents may find it even harder to pay overdue fees because of the higher than provincial average of low-income rates. Nelson’s poverty rate exceeds the provincial 2020 average of 8.9 per cent and national 2020 average of 6.9 per cent, according to Statistics Canada.
“Eliminating fines means more people in our community have greater access to library materials and services,” said Therrien.
“The elimination of fines also reduces the workload for library staff, as well as negative interactions with patrons, who may react with frustration and shame. Library staff can now do the parts of the job they love most: serving people and creating a positive library experience.”
To help launch this new initiative the library is holding its annual Fines for Foods drive from Dec. 19 to 24. For several years the library has supported the Nelson Community Food Centre in helping provide healthy food for those in need by donating fines collected during the holiday season. If you feel you are able to pay your fines this is a chance to make them go a little further.
The library board and staff wish you all a joyful holiday season. We remind you that your library membership is freedom to discover, connect and imagine and in 2023 late fines won’t get in your way!
Check This Out runs once a month. For more information go to www.nelsonlibrary.ca.