Oakville library system drops late fees


Published October 23, 2020 at 1:06 pm

No more fines for overdue books in the Oakville library system.

The Oakville Public Library (OPL) Board has decided to eliminate late fees for books – and all material that you borrow from the system – as a way to support barrier-free access to literacy.

The board unanimously approved the shift in policy which is an extension of a move made last year that lifted fines for children’s material. It is also a way to relieve some strain on those in need during the pandemic.

Historically, overdue fines – also called late fees – accumulate on any library materials that are not returned on or before their due date.

Overdue fines represent just a small percentage of the library’s operating budget. Eliminating these types of fines aligns with OPL’s strategic priorities and will not have a significant impact on the overall budget.

“We’re excited to offer this change to a fine-free model at OPL, and believe this new policy will provide members of the Oakville community with improved access to our physical materials, regardless of their background or socioeconomic status,” says Councillor Jeff Knoll, Chair of OPL’s Library Board of Directors. “We know that overdue fines disproportionately impact the vulnerable in our community and we know that there are people reluctant to use library services or have simply stopped coming due to fines.”

Eliminating fines has been a growing trend of library systems across North America as some believe the traditional penalties create negative experiences for both customers and librarians. The OPL believes it will create a more welcoming and supportive environment at its branches.

Library material included in this new initiative are print materials, audio-visual materials, technology (Wi-Fi Hotspots, laptops, etc.), Tinker Toys, sports lending equipment, or other kits. This does not apply to fees related to lost or damaged items, holds expired, referral fees, or any administrative fees.

The OPL believes operating in a fine-free model will increase circulation and usage amongst lapsed and non-users of the library, as well as enhancing goodwill amongst existing customers.

However, the new system will not let repeat violators go unpunished. To ensure borrowed items are still returned in a timely fashion, OPL is implementing a limit of two overdue items per account. Library accounts with more than two overdue library items will be prevented from borrowing more material until the overdue materials are renewed or returned.

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