Vancouver Island Regional Library cuts late fees for one-year pilot project

Vancouver Island Regional Library cuts late fees for one-year pilot project
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The Vancouver Island Regional Library is going to try something new, a one-year pilot project of not charging any fees.

It’s a movement that’s been gaining traction in libraries across North America as an idea to lower barriers for those who may be marginalized.

“I think it’s one of these anxieties that many library users have, that if they amass too many fines you’re going to be declined access to collections,” said Ben Hyman, VIRL’s Executive Director

At the beginning of the pandemic, the Vancouver Island Regional Library dropped late fees to help ease anxieties but now that life is returning to a new normal, instead of reinstating fines, it’s going to try a one-year pilot project on not charging any late fees starting January 1, 2022.

It started waiving fees on children’s materials in 2019.

“It really is just acknowledging the barriers to access for this service which isn’t consistent with our objectives, and vision, and mission and so forth so the board’s been having a good look at what those barriers are and what the board can do to remove them,” said Hyman.

It’s part of a movement by public libraries across North America and in the past few years, close to 300 libraries across Canada have eliminated late fees.

The Greater Victoria Public Library says its board is also mulling over the move and some library users say they’re fully in favour.

“The most important thing with libraries is to have them used,” said Nadine Lindstrom, a VIRL customer. “It would remove barriers for certain groups so that’s really interesting and attractive.”

“It’s a good idea dropping it if it helps get more customers and more people reading,” said Gerry Stalling another VIRL customer.

Sharon Speevak likes the concept but she worries about what it would mean for people like her as she often has close to 10 holds.

“If it slowed down that process of book turnover I think that would be unfortunate because you know some people are waiting on books especially the more popular ones,” said Speevak.

The Vancouver Island Regional Library says fines account for less than $200,000 of revenues, less than 2 per cent of their overall budget and it’s hoped it could be covered by savings internally or new revenues.

According to the approved business case, customers must not exceed 10 items or if they do they’ll have to return them in order to check out new materials.

Also any 120 days past due would be deemed lost and the replacement cost would be applied to the account, although fees would be eliminated if the lost materials were returned.

The Vancouver Island Regional Library put the brakes on a new branch in Campbell River with skyrocketing construction costs.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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