Overdue library book fines to be thing of the past in Sioux Lookout

Overdue fines for library books in Sioux Lookout will be a thing of the past.

Starting on Dec. 1, the Sioux Lookout Public Library will be changing a longstanding policy and eliminating fines for overdue items.

Shawn Bethke, the CEO of the Sioux Lookout Public Library, said reception to the idea has been fantastic since the library announce the change at the beginning of November.

“We’ve had thousands of hits on our Facebook page. [We’ve gotten] lots of great community feedback,” he said.

Bethke said getting rid of overdue fines has been a long time coming and has been a trend for public libraries in Canada over the last several years.

“We wanted to get out in front of that trend and be a leader in Northwestern Ontario, so we brought that to the board, that it was time for the public library to go fine free and offer this service to our community which is going to be a great thing,” he said.

Bethke said the library is using this month to transition their systems, update policies, and raise awareness of the eliminated of fines with a campaign called Food for Fines.

“So basically, it’s the chance for us to get the word out that we’re going fine-free, while giving back to the community and letting people bring in much needed food donations for those in the community who are in need and clear off all those old legacy fines that they will no longer have to worry about again,” he said.

Bethke said people are happy to come in, clear their fines and have already contributed a lot of donations to the local food banks.

“It’s been wonderful and a very positive reception from the community and everyone involved,“ he said.

Even if people don’t clear their fines in November, everything will be cleared on Dec. 1, Bethke said, who noted that any items lost or damaged will still be charged.

Bethke said many people get anxiety about library fines, and he hopes the change will reduce that.

“We would like people to feel good coming to the library, using our materials,” he said.

And as more word gets out about going fine-free at the library, Bethe said he's hopeful the change will “create positives vibes about the library and the library community, in the larger community and gets people thinking about the library again.”

Eric Shih, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source