Nova Scotia

Halifax libraries close the book on overdue fees

The city's library system is now "fine-free" effective immediately, since existing fines have been forgiven and anyone who was blocked from borrowing can now begin again.

There's still a replacement fee if materials aren't back within 30 days of due date

Halifax Public Libraries will no longer charge late fees. (Submitted by Halifax Central Library)

Halifax Public Libraries has ended the practice of levying fines for overdue materials.

The city's library system is now "fine-free" effective immediately, it said in an announcement Wednesday.

All existing fines have been forgiven, and anyone who was blocked from borrowing due to fines can now begin borrowing again.

"Our community and staff both identified library fines as a source of anxiety and hardship," Åsa Kachan, chief librarian and CEO said in a release. 

"Public libraries and our collections of books and materials belong to the community and we trust the community to care for them and return them when they're done. We want everyone in HRM to use their Library throughout their lifetime without worry of fines."

The library's board approved the move in July.

The release said having equitable access to information and technology is more important now than ever. Removing fines makes sure that no one in the community is held back.

Åsa Kachan is the chief librarian and CEO of Halifax Public Libraries. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

This change could bring back library users, or invite in people who have never been users, who stayed away because they were worried about fines.

Hundreds of North American libraries have gone fine-free over the past years, the release said. Books and materials still get returned, and more people use the library.

Revenue from fines makes up less than one per cent of the library's budget, having steadily decreased over the last five years. 

The loss of this small amount of revenue will be absorbed into the existing library operating budget.

"Fines are a barrier that disproportionately affects lower income residents. Overdue fines do not encourage people to return materials; they act as a roadblock to many individuals and families who would benefit the most from lifelong engagement with the Library," Marika Warren, chair of the board's audit and finance committee, said in the release.

However, borrowing periods remain the same and users will still be charged a replacement fee for materials if they are not returned within 30 days of their due date.

Kachan said they have "great trust" in the community" and people have always taken great care in sharing library spaces and the collection.

"We don't expect that to change. The change we expect to see, is a less stressful and more equitable library experience for everyone," she said.

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