The Richmond Public Library (RPL) is permanently doing away with overdue fines in an effort to provide more equitable and accessible service to all members of the community.
The move goes into effect on Feb. 14, and all cardholder accounts will get a fresh start without fines as of that date.
“After 45 years of serving our community, we know that late fines can present a significant barrier to accessing the library, particularly for individuals who are vulnerable, experiencing homelessness and those with low or fixed income,” said Jordan Oye, RPL board chair.
He said that late fines represent just one per cent of the library’s operating budget, and the decision to eliminate fines was unanimously supported by the RPL’s Board of Trustees.
According to RPL’s website, of the library’s 111,000 cardholders, over 7,500 couldn’t access its collections because they owed late fines.
Over 270 libraries across North America have done away with late fines, chief librarian Susan Walters said, and “have reported high, and even improved, material return rates.”
RPL has also seen higher return rates since it paused late fines at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, reporting that more than 72,000 holds have been fulfilled, and more than 230,000 items returned.
It’s also hoped the move away from fines will help welcome back Richmond residents who may have stopped using the library.
More than 10,000 hours of staff time were spent on “late fine conversations,” said Walters. Now, those hours will be spent engaging with the community.
RPL will send out reminders to ensure books are returned, and while there won’t be late fines, people will have to pay a replacement fee if a book isn’t returned within 21 days after the due date.
More information about a fine-free RPL can be found at https://www.yourlibrary.ca/finefree.