Goodbye, late fees: Vancouver Island Regional Library officially eliminates overdue book fines


The days of late fees at Vancouver Island Regional Library locations are over for good.

Starting on Jan. 1 the Vancouver Island Regional Library stopped charging late fees on its materials as part of its policy, with the goal of eliminating barriers for people wanting to access the library.

“Really any small financial gains that we may see from them are far outweighed by the benefits that we know they provide to people who would otherwise not be able to access those materials,” said David Carson, Vancouver Island Regional Library’s director of communications.

The Vancouver Island Regional Library stopped charging late fees on children’s materials in 2019. It suspended late fees during the pandemic and then started a one-year pilot project banning late fees on all its materials in 2021.

During the first six months, the library saw overdue items increase from .03 per cent to .06 per cent of its total physical collections.

VIRL has 750,000 physical items at its 39 branches serving Vancouver Island, Haidi Gwaii and the Central Coast and at any time approximately 150,000 are checked out.

Carson said any negative impacts have been minimal.

“We know that right now more than 90 percent of our cardholders do not have late material.”

Carson said their data shows that two-thirds of materials will be returned before 21 days and 98 per cent will be returned before 120 days.

As Karen James checked out her books Tuesday at the Harbourfront library branch in Nanaimo, she was glad to learn if she does return them late she won’t be fined.

“I’m a sporadic library user so that would help me out a lot and certainly a notice that they’re missing some books and I’d be glad to return them,” said James.

Eliminating overdue charges is part of a trend in North American library systems. Vancouver Public Library got rid of its late fees this past June. Greater Victoria Regional Library says it’s examining the impacts of making a similar change.

Back in Nanaimo, those CHEK News spoke to at the library are on board.

“I think it’s a good thing because it’s a block for some people and some people take longer to read,” said Bob Bingham, a library user.

“I think it’s a great idea assuming they have a good way of following up to make sure they actually get the items back,” said Galan Loven, another user.

The Vancouver Island Regional Library says it will still phone and send notifications about upcoming due dates and late items and if a book or item is overdue by 120 days the library will still charge its replacement cost.

The standard loan period is three weeks.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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