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Wellington County Library to eliminate overdue fines in 2022

Fines 'disproportionately affect the members of the community who are most in need of library services,' says chief librarian
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County of Wellington Library Aberfoyle branch. Keegan Kozolanka/GuelphToday file photo

Wellington County Library has become the latest area library to announce it's doing away with late fees.

The change is set to come into effect Jan. 1, following a unanimous vote by the Wellington County Library Board earlier this month.

This follows similar moves by libraries in Guelph, Kitchener, Cambridge, Hamilton and Halton Hills.

"Permanently removing overdue fines supports lifelong learning by ensuring library resources remain accessible to everyone in Wellington County," library chair and county councillor Mary Lloyd said in a media release. 

In a report to council, chief librarian Rebecca Hine said research shows fines do not promote the timely return of library material and in fact do the opposite.

Many libraries see an increase in returned material after going fine-free as the stigma of owing money and the inability to pay prevent patrons not bringing items back, Hine explained. 

"Library fines disproportionately affect the members of the community who are most in need of library services," Hine said. "By eliminating this barrier, libraries see an increase in circulation, memberships and items being returned."

Late fees cover 0.8 per cent of the annual cost of operating the library, which has 14 locations, Hine said, adding they are not a sustainable source of revenue as the use of digital content grows.

In 2021 late fines were budgeted to bring in $62,800, but the library chose not to collect any because of the pandemic. 

All outstanding overdue fines will be forgiven effective Jan. 1.

Fees will continue to be charged for lost or damaged materials.



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Alison Sandstrom

About the Author: Alison Sandstrom

Alison Sandstrom is a staff reporter for GuelphToday
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