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Welcome to fine-free libraries

The Thompson-Nicola Regional Library system has decided to do away with fines for overdue materials at all of its branches, including the two libraries in Kamloops.
library card

What would Mr. Bookman think?

Library fines have been eliminated and all overdue charges at Thompson-Nicola Regional Library branches — including the downtown Kamloops and North Kamloops locations — are being forgiven.

The TNRL said the foundation of the public library is free and equitable service to all and noted fines can create a barrier to access.

“Overdue fines disproportionately impact children, low income residents and other vulnerable populations,” the TNRL said. “Fines create negative experiences for both our community and staff and can discourage library use.”

On a typical day, approximately 10 per cent, or 5,000 of the library system’s 50,000 active users, have blocks on their card because they have accrued fines of more than $10. Those users are were then unable to borrow materials or access digital services.

“For some patrons, these fines are a hardship and consequently they stop using the library,” the TNRL said. “We’ve adopted a fine-free model to remove barriers and to create equitable library service for everyone in our community.”

Patrons with overdue books will receive notifications about upcoming due dates, while the TNRL will continue to charge replacement fees if an item is lost or damaged. Due dates remain in place and customers who do not return library materials will be charged replacement fees and/or have their borrowing privileges blocked until items are returned.

Charges will also remain in place for lost, stolen or damaged items. Items not returned after 30 days from the date they are due back, will result in a replacement fee, which can be reversed if the item is returned.

The Thompson-Nicola Regional Library system joins library systems across Canada in eliminating overdue fines, including those in Burnaby, North Vancouver City, Richmond, Invermere, Fort St. James, and Creston.

In 2019, the collection of fines represented 0.40% of Thompson-Nicola Regional Library’s total revenue, with such revenue steadily decreasing over the past several years due to increased use of digital collections, such as eBooks, which do not accrue fines, and email reminders to return materials. During the pandemic, the TNRL did not charge late fees.

The loss of fines revenues will be absorbed in the library’s operating budget and the TNRL said it is confident it can offset the revenue loss through operating efficiencies and cost savings as a result of no longer collecting fines.

The TNRL said other library systems that have ditched fines have seen an increase in circulation and in the number of active library users. In addition, the TNRL noted fine-free libraries have not reported increases in theft or increased wait times due to materials not returned.