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Richmond book worms, procrastinators can rejoice as library late fees are officially lifted

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RICHMOND (NEWS 1130) — Richmond Public Library has a gift for residents this Valentine’s Day. The removal of late fees — forever.

The Library Board has unanimously voted to get rid of fines so, as of Sunday, late fees are officially a thing of the past.

Chief Librarian Susan Walters says the fees had already been temporarily halted since last year because of the pandemic, but she says, “We really wanted to make this permanent.”

“We want people to be able to use our services. And fines are a real impediment for a lot of people who may be more vulnerable,” she says. “So I think of seniors in our community who maybe don’t have the same financial situation that they had when they were working. We’ve got people who may be experiencing homelessness. And when you think of a mom with multiple children in their cards just trying to manage all the cards and get all the items back. We want people to be able to enjoy their library services, or the library is a resource for all of our communities.”

While some may be quick to believe that such a move would entice people to not return checked out items, Walters says it’s been proven by libraries that have gone fine free that materials do come back.

“There’s more engagement from the community in getting that material back because there’s not this punitive late fine attached to it,” she explains. “We have seen through this pandemic huge numbers of our materials being returned and holds in place. So we’re not worried that that material will not come back to the library.”

According to Walers, over 270 cities in North America have seen libraries permanently remove late fines, including Whistler, Burnaby and North Vancouver.

Over the years, she adds, because more people are more inclined to check out digital content, that can’t be fined because there’s no late fine since books are returned automatically.

“So we wanted to level that playing field between digital and physical because we know not everyone in our community chooses to use digital content.”

As for revenue generated from fines the Richmond Public library says late fines represent one per cent of the library’s operating budget.