After realizing the decades-old practice of charging users for overdue books was only creating barriers, the Pickering Public Library dropped both historical and future fees.
Ajax, Clarington and Scugog are among the group of libraries that have already joined the growing movement of dropping late fees.
This new policy is meant to help make library services more inclusive and welcoming to all. In addition to permanently ending late fees, the library has forgiven all historical fines on library accounts.
“We are closing the chapter on late fees and want to welcome back anyone who has not used their Picking Public Library recently,” says library CEO Jackie Flowers. “Stop by any library location and staff will be happy to get you a new library card so you can start using your library.”
In a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the library temporarily suspended charging late fees in March 2020. This provided them with a trial run for permanently ending the collection of late fees.
Research found the amounts charged for overdue books were not steep enough to cause financial hardship for the average library user. But for individuals living on a fixed income or with financial vulnerabilities, the charges created barriers to accessing the library when they were unable to pay. Often the people who need the library most cannot afford to pay late fees.
Flowers says staff have reviewed data from the last three years to see if late fees affected whether people returned their items on time. “We compared the data from 2019 when we charged fees, with data from the two years of the pandemic when we didn’t charge fees,” she says. “It was fascinating to see that more items were returned on time when we stopped charging late fees!”
Overdue fees are only charged on physical items borrowed; digital items such as ebooks and e-audiobooks are automatically returned on their due date. As a result of the increasing use of digital collections, Pickering Public Library saw a 40 per cent reduction in late fees collected from 2015 to 2019.
In 2019, late fees collected from overdue items represented less than one per cent of the annual budget.
Library clients are still responsible for returning their items on time; the library will continue to charge replacement costs for lost or damaged items. Clients who keep library items well past their due date will be charged a replacement or lost item amount on their account. This will have to be settled before they can borrow new items.
Join in the goodbye late fees announcement at the central library located at 1 the Esplanade S., on Saturday, June 4 at 1:20 pm as part of its MakerFest activities.
For more information, visit pickeringlibrary.ca/borrowing-guide/.