The Guelph Public Library announced it will be going fine-free indefinitely in the new year to encourage access to resources to a greater number of people.
The decision came Tuesday with the Guelph Public Library Board approving the proposed 2022 Library Operating and Capital budget requests.
Steven Kraft, Guelph Public Library CEO, said the fines will be done away with forever, saying this is in line with the movement across Ontario which has seen hundreds of municipalities ax fines and ensures marginalized community members have full access to resources within the community.
“That’s the reason we do this. We want people to come back to the library,” said Kraft. “A fixed-rate policy is not equitable, it’s inequitable, and it disproportionately affects those experiencing financial problems or financial security. One patron’s nominal fee who doesn’t mind paying $10 is anothers' prohibitively expensive penalty, and it discourages those people from coming back to the library.”
The decision comes as the library begins to see an increase in digital resources.
“Many Guelph families are struggling to put food on the table or pay their rent, let alone pay back their library overdue fees,” said Kraft in a news release. “It’s time to turn a new page and chapter in library services by eliminating these barriers and welcoming everyone back into our space.”
The Library’s operating budget will be presented to council by mid-November with final approval in early December.
According to the Guelph Public Library, the Library is evolving its service offerings to become stewards of digital literacy, innovation and skill-building for success in today’s economy.
In 2016, more than one-third of Guelph residents were living at or below the living household income threshold, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this issue.
Overdue fines typically generate between $200,000 and $250,000 in revenue each year, however, Kraft noted the Guelph Public Library has seen these figures drop.
As for existing fines, Kraft said a decision is likely to be made moving forward in regards to completely scrapping these, or looking at them on a case-by-case basis.
“The Ontario Library Association is totally behind this as well,” said Kraft. “As of July 2021, almost 700 Canadian municipalities have adopted the fine-free policy.”
In January of this year, the Kitchener Public Library announced they were making the move to go fine-free indefinitely to provide more equitable and accessible service.