New Westminster – New Westminster Public Library is excited to announce it will no longer charge overdue fines on library materials. As part of the roll-out to this new policy, the library will be granting a one-time amnesty that will erase all fines from all accounts that were in place prior to September 10, 2022.
“The New Westminster Public Library Board of Trustees join with other libraries across Canada who have come to understand how traditional library represent a serious equity issue,” said Library Board Chair Norah Andrews. “By eliminating fines, hundreds of library users will again be able to check out library materials and take advantage of everything the library has to offer. This is a key element of our 2021 – 2025 Strategic Plan that emphasizes equity of access and the reduction of barriers to library use.”
“New Westminster Public Library is proud to support our commitment to equitable library service for all. By eliminating overdue fines and nearly all fees, we want to encourage more residents to use and enjoy the library”, said Chief Librarian Jorge Cardenas.
In August of 2021, the Library Board and library staff began to explore the costs and benefits of moving to a fine-free model. Following this review and in consultation with the City of New Westminster, the Library Board unanimously passed an updated policy on June 21, 2022 eliminating the charging of overdue fines as well as other fees related to costs to replace a library card, and regular holds pick-up fees. The library has actually not assessed these fines since the arrival of COVID-19 in March 2020.
In the lead-up to the Board decision, Library staff reviewed data on borrowing trends, cardholder trends, use patterns of other fine-free libraries, and revenue generated by overdue fines. As a result, it became clear that overdue fines and the blocked library cards that often resulted from fines, affected services for many New Westminster residents, in particular those with lower incomes and marginalized communities. “When we looked at library materials since we paused fine charges during COVID, there was no difference in terms of wait times and the overall return rate, and any revenue from the fines that were collected accounted for less than 1% of the library’s budget” said Cardenas.
Now, the Library will charge minimal costs for some services, such as printing, Interlibary Loans requested and not picked up, and lost or damaged materials, though this charge will be waived if items are returned in good condition. Staff will exercise empathy and compassion when enforcing library policies around charges incurred on borrower accounts.
Library staff will work with all partners in the month of September and as well as with affected customers during the transition period. In most cases Library customers won’t notice much on their accounts, except that those with fees related to late or overdue materials will see them removed.
An official announcement of the new policy will be made by Mayor Jonathan Cote and Library Leadership as part of the Summer Reading Club Wrap-up party scheduled September 10, 2022, 1:30 – 3:00pm at the Queens Park Oval.