Toronto's library system has seen a dramatic drop in the number of people failing to pick up requested materials since a new fee system was brought in last summer.

Until July of last year, library users didn’t have to pay if they didn’t pick up the holds that came in for them.

But the library changed that policy in part because of the hundreds of thousands of books, DVDs and other media that were sitting on shelves waiting for someone to claim them each year.

Katherine Palmer, the library system's director of planning, policy and e-service delivery, said the policy change has had its intended effect.

"The good news is that people are more careful about managing their holds," Palmer told CBC News in a telephone interview ahead of the weekend.

According to Palmer, the library saw some 192,970 holds left on shelves from last September through June of this year.

That may seem like a lot, but Palmer said it’s less than a third of the 607,498 held items that were not picked up during the same period the year before.

"That's about a 68 per cent drop," said Palmer.

A staff report posted on the library website suggests the same policy change has also had "a significant impact on usage" over the past year. In the months after the new fine system was implemented, library staff saw nearly 250,000 fewer holds filled than they would have expected.

Palmer said that not all of the customers who failed to pick up held materials ended up paying the $1 fine — particularly in the early days when the policy change first came into effect.

"We were very lenient," Palmer said.

While Palmer said the amount of hold-related revenue "is tapering" over time, she said the library has collected more than $122,000 since the fines came into effect last year.