January 23rd, 2021

Public library officials monitoring no late-fee policy

By Sulz, Dave on August 13, 2020.

Dave Sulz

lethbridge herald


Lethbridge Public Library officials are keeping their eyes on the growing pool of libraries moving away from late fees but they aren’t prepared to dip their own toes into the water just yet.

A number of Canadian libraries are adopting a fine-free policy, among them the Edmonton and Calgary public library systems as well as all Nova Scotia libraries.

In a Canadian Press story in Saturday’s Herald, Mary Chevreau, chair of the Canadian Urban Libraries Council, said most public libraries in Canada are considering ending fines for overdue materials.

The Lethbridge Public Library is among those pondering the policy.

“It’s definitely something we have discussed and we’re well aware of other libraries in Canada and Alberta that are moving that way,” said Terra Plato, CEO of the Lethbridge Public Library.

The challenge, Plato added, is that membership fees and late fees represent revenue streams for libraries that help make up their operating budget.

The Lethbridge library already eliminated membership fees for 2019 and 2020, and while going fine-free is a possibility, it’s too early for the library to make that determination, since it’s unknown what the library budget will look like in 2021. With library funding coming from both the municipality and the province, it can’t be foreseen just what impact the COVID-19 pandemic might have on future funding.

Money from overdue fines along with other fees such as photocopying charges is “a significant amount,” said Plato.

“Any time you’re cutting revenue, you have to look at where you’re going to cut expenses.”

And trimming expenses translates to reducing services, so budgetary decisions boil down to trying to balance costs with meeting the community’s needs.

“It’s definitely on our radar in communication with other libraries,” Plato said of eliminating late fees. “We support the philosophy behind it because it’s all about removing barriers.”

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