Scugog Library Launching Fine Free Initiative
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: On Thursday, October 15th, 2020, the Scugog Memorial Public Library Board voted unanimously in favouring of implementing a Fine Free Initiative.
Since January 2019 more than 270 public libraries across North America have gone fine free, and in the past few months the numbers have been climbing with new libraries being added to the list almost daily. “All the research shows that late fees don’t actually contribute to items being returned on time” says Scugog Library CEO Amy Caughlin, “We have had a good opportunity to look at evidence first hand during our recent COVID-19 restrictions. We have not charged any late fees since March, yet 99% of the materials that went out in the last 7 months have been returned.”
Rather than convincing people to return items, late charges can act as a barrier to service and create a situation where the library loses both the books and the patron, “The disturbing thing we noticed was that the 1% of materials that were still overdue were mostly checked out to children,” says Caughlin. “Many young families have separate cards for each child and take out many books at once. This can lead to a scenario where, even if they are just a day or two late, there is a significant fine that builds up. If they don’t have the money to pay the fine, they will often just stop using the library. A fine-based system punishes the people who have the greatest need of our services.”
There will still be systems in place to encourage patrons to return items on time, for example there will be limits on taking out new books if a patron has overdue items, but Scugog Library staff are hoping that forgiving existing fines and removing late fees will bring back both customers and lost books. “Chicago Public Library saw a 240% increase in overdue material returns in the month after they went fine free,” Caughlin added, “We look forward to welcoming back customers who may have stopped using the library because of overdue fines. We’re spreading the word that if you bring back the books, you won’t owe us anything.”