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Late fees no longer charged at New Westminster Public Library

Late fees are being eliminated at New Westminster Public Library – but you’ll still have to pay for some services, including lost and damaged books
New Westminster public library - JG file
The New Westminster Public Library will no longer fining folks for overdue materials.

If you’ve ever worried about racking up fines for overdue library materials, worry no more.

As of Sept. 10, the New Westminster Public Library is no longer charging overdue fines on library materials. As part of the roll-out to this new policy, the library is granting a one-time amnesty that will erase all fines from all accounts that were in place before Sept. 10.

“The New Westminster Public Library board of trustees joins with other libraries across Canada who have come to understand how traditional library fines represent a serious equity issue,” said Norah Andrews, chair of the library board. “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.”

Andrews said a key element of the New Westminster Public Library’s 2021 to 2025 strategic plan is the need for 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,” chief librarian Jorge Cardenas said in a news release. “By eliminating overdue fines and nearly all fees, we want to encourage more residents to use and enjoy the library.”

In August 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 that eliminated the charging of overdue fines, as well as other fees related to costs to replace a library card and regular holds pick-up fees.

According to a press release from the NWPL, the library will charge minimal costs for some services, such as printing, interlibrary loans that are requested and not picked up, and lost or damaged materials, although 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,” said the press release.

Because interlibrary loan materials are not owned by the New Westminster Public Library, the NWPL will charge a $1 fee for each inter-library loan not picked up.

What happens if you return items late?

“We will automatically renew items for you twice, if no one else is waiting for them. After 42 days past a final due date, the item will be noted as ‘lost’ and a replacement fee will be posted to your account,” said a notice on the library’s website. “When the item is returned, and it is in good condition we will automatically remove the charge.”

While it’s eliminating late fees, the library will continue to encourage people to return materials to the library in good condition by their due date. It will also send reminders before and after the due date.

In the lead-up to the board’s 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, the library said it became clear that overdue fines and the blocked library cards that often resulted from fines, affected services for many New Westminster residents, particularly those with lower incomes and marginalized communities.

The New Westminster Public Library has not been assessing new fines since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

“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 per cent of the library’s budget,” Cardenas said.