Regional libraries to eliminate overdue fines

·2 min read

The TNRD board voted at their regular board meeting of Mar. 11 to eliminate overdue fines for libraries within the TNRD system.

A board report was submitted which recommended that overdue library fines for patrons be done away with.

“The question of their purpose, their value, their impact – is a hot topic in libraries across BC,” reads the report.

Although the fines were intended to encourage patrons to return materials on time, evidence suggests that they are not effective and that libraries that eliminated fines for overdue items did not see a change in the amount or frequency of overdue items.

Instead of fines, the library uses a system of email reminders, billing for unreturned items, or blocking access to additional materials after a set period of time.

“There is a growing international trend among libraries to eliminate overdue fines in response to studies showing that fines are a barrier to usage and disproportionately impact children and other vulnerable populations,” the report states.

“Mistakes and circumstances once resulting in overdue fines will no longer mean low-income individuals and families lose access to library resources. Patrons will be more likely to use the library if they do not fear incurring fines. It is within our reach to eliminate overdue fines and achieve a profound and transformative impact on access to library services, with a nominal impact to our budget.”

Revenue from fines dropped by 21% between 2017 and 2019. Over the past four years, fine revenues have dropped a staggering 75%, likely due in part to the TNRL’s fine free practice during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fine revenues by year are as follows:

2017 - $46,798

2018 - $32,654

2019 - $37,194

2020 - $11,587 .

Fines range from $0.05 to $1 per day per item, to a total of $3 to $10 per item. When a patron has more than $10 in accumulated fines, their account is blocked. Under this system, 7% of children’s accounts and approximately 11% of other active accounts are blocked.

The TNRL, however, already has an established practice of not charging overdue fines for Library Home Service and Mobile Library users.

Other BC libraries such as those in Whistler, Smithers, Powell River, Burnaby, and Sechelt have already eliminated some or all of their fines.

The board voted unanimously to eliminate overdue fines for the TNRL system.

Morgan Hampton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Merritt Herald