The Kitchener Public Library (KPL) announced they will be removing fines and overdue fees permanently, as a step towards making the library accessible and equitable for those in the community.
KPL had paused all fines and overdue fees throughout the pandemic as a safety precaution, eliminating residents having to leave their homes to return items.
“Libraries, in general, were meant to be equalizers — for everyone to have the same access to things,” Shirley Luu, digital marketing manager at KPL, said.
“We don’t want there to be any barriers, and fines were one of those things that were a barrier. We’re really excited to be able to now announce that fines are gone — forever.”
In November, KPL began researching the impact that waiving overdue fines would make on the community.
At that time, they learned that 11 thousand library cardholders were unable to take out material because they owed fines. Over 15 per cent of those individuals were children.
“We were really looking at the people who these policies are affecting. Being able to go fine-free, we can welcome back people to the library who maybe haven’t been able to visit us in a while,” Luu said.
Not only will the removal of fines positively impact low-income families within the region, but it will also affect those who may not have easy access to transportation, as well as many other barriers.
Since announcing their decision to go fine-free, KPL has received countless positive feedback from the community.
“One person shared with us online, that removing fines is going to make their son much less anxious to check out his books,” Luu said.
Although KPL will be removing overdue fines, they are confident this will not impact timely returns.
“Historically, fines were introduced as a motivator to return things in a timely manner,” Luu said.
“All the studies show that it actually has unintended consequences that affect different populations, but it is also not true that people won’t bring their books back if there are no overdue fines.”
According to Luu, the Chicago Public Library saw a 240 per cent increase in returned books after they went fine-free.
Although daily fines are gone, missing and replacement fees will still exist for long-overdue books.
In addition to waiving fines, KPL has recently launched new initiatives, in order to take some other steps towards making the library more inclusive and equitable, such as free skate rentals.
“There’s a new rink behind the library, and not everyone has access to skates … especially now that there aren’t a lot of other things to do, offering skates to the community has been really well received,” Luu said.
The library is also offering free wireless printing for those working from home who may not have access to a printer.
“A lot of people are discovering they don’t have home printers,” Luu said.
“There’s no charging for wireless printing at the moment. You can send something to us to print from home or outside, and pick it up curbside.”