No more late fees to be charged at P.E.I. public libraries

Prince Edward Island libraries are ending the practice of charging late fees for people bringing borrowed materials back late, in a measure the education minister estimates will cost about $35,000 a year.

Lending system also wiping out balances for 32,700 fined borrowers

Up until today, late fees were charged if books and other items weren't returned by the due date, normally three weeks after the borrowing date. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

Delinquent library users in Prince Edward Island have a reason to rejoice. 

The provincial lending system is ending the practice of charging fees for people bringing borrowed materials back late.

Outstanding library late-fee balances will also be wiped out for 32,700 Islanders, according to a news release issued Friday.

The change is designed "to remove any potential barriers for people and to encourage as many people as possible to use the libraries, borrow books and enjoy reading," said the statement from the Department of Education and Lifelong Learning. 

People who lose books and other lent material will still be responsible for the cost of replacing them. 

Education and Lifelong Learning Minister Brad Trivers said discussions were happening before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, with officials telling him that P.E.I. was one of the last jurisdictions in the country to charge late fees. 

We just really feel that the benefits are going to be worth that cost.— Brad Trivers, education and lifelong learning minister

"It checked all the boxes all the way around," he said of the measure. "It really should increase the library usage, it won't cost a lot, and it will really improve access." 

The province had been taking in about $35,000 a year from overdue fees, Trivers noted.

"We just really feel that the benefits are going to be worth that cost.… We want to be sure that there are no barriers to access our libraries."

Last year in Charlottetown alone, 198,615 books, DVDs, CDs, magazines and other materials were checked out, according to the Confederation Centre Public Library's 2019 report to the community.

Following nationwide trend

The P.E.I. move to forgive lateness mirrors a trend in recent months for public library systems to drop the collection of late fees with the goal of making reading more accessible to all.

Halifax's libraries eliminated late fees in August, for example. 

"Our community and staff both identified library fines as a source of anxiety and hardship," Åsa Kachan, chief librarian and CEO of Halifax Public Libraries, said at the time. 

"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." 

Mary Chevreau, the chair of the Canadian Urban Libraries Council, told the Canadian Press in August that for most library systems in the country, fine-collection revenue accounts to only between one and two per cent of operating budgets. 

More from CBC P.E.I.


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