Public Libraries and Library Fines

Public Libraries and Library Fines Traditionally, public libraries have collected fines for library items that are returned after the due date and have charged replacement fees for items that have been lost or damaged. Library fines have been considered a deterrent to late returns, damage or loss of items. However, fines can also be a deterrent to a library user to access the resources of a public library. An alternative to fines is suspension of borrowing privileges until the resource is returned. During the initial response to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, as public libraries were physically closed, many public libraries waived fees. This was to encourage community members to stay home and not feel compelled to immediately return materials, particularly recognizing those community members who under increased financial pressure and concerned about incurring fines. As libraries re-opened, and in response to their communities, more than 200 public libraries across Canada have made decisions to extend a fine-free policy. Re-evaluating Library Fines A fine-free policy may focus on eliminating late fees, eliminating fees on lost materials and on implementing alternative strategies for encouraging the return of library materials, such email reminders or longer loan periods. Some public libraries have waived fee universally, while others have taken a more targeted approach. Brampton Public Library received the 2019 Ministers Award for Innovation[i] for its initiative to eliminate fees for children’s materials. For many public libraries, eliminating library fines is a strategy to better align with the core mission of the public library – to serve communities. Library fines and the anxiety prompted by the threat of fines are a deterrent...