Eliminating late fines expected to help patrons overcome barriers to access library services
The Whistler Public Library will join a handful of other libraries in becoming fine free beginning on Sunday, August 27. In celebration of the Library’s 31st birthday, one of the most significant barriers will be eliminated, encouraging increased access to library services.
In the fall of 2016 the Library’s Board of Trustees agreed to support a budget that would end the library’s relationship with the traditional practice of charging fines for overdue items. “Fines are less than 1% of our operating revenue and do not represent the relationship we want to have with the community, which is one of altruism and good will. The practice is no longer keeping up with the mission,” said Gord Annand, Whistler Public Library Board Chair.
“It is important to acknowledge that people have already paid for these resources with their tax dollars. Fines often discourage access to the library by the very people who need it the most. We know that a vibrant library correlates to a healthy community and we want people to feel positively about the library” said Elizabeth Tracy, Library Director.
Since the fall of 2012 the Whistler Public Library has focused on providing excellent customer service, including the removal of barriers that prevented staff from being able to help patrons to the fullest extent. This has included physical changes like the approachable service desks and operational changes such as unlimited renewals for items without holds and extended hours of operation based on customer feedback.
The decision to remove fines was thoughtfully considered and the library has been working towards removing the barrier for several years. For more than 10 years, children’s books have not been accruing fines and staff have been empowered to use discretion to waive or reduce fines. In addition, the increased use of electronic resources like eBooks and eAudiobooks have reduced the amount of fines because items self-return after use.
While the effect of reduced motivation to return items has been considered, patrons will still be charged for the replacement value of lost items after 6 weeks. The Chicago Public Library can attest that 95 per cent of items were returned on time prior to the change and they are still at 95 per cent after discontinuing fines. The Pemberton Public Library has been fine free since 2008.
To show appreciation for the library’s good work or to support some of the innovative capital projects coming with the library’s 2018-2021 strategic plan, donations can be made directly to the library or though Canada Helps on the library’s website at whistlerlibrary.ca/give.
Join in the celebration of Whistler Public Library’s 31st birthday on Sunday, August 27. Visit whistlerlibrary.ca/events for event details.