Goodbye, Fines. Hello, Library.
On Wednesday, August 5, Halifax Public Libraries announced that it is officially “fine-free”!
From August 5 onward, the Library will follow a fine-free model. All existing overdue fines have been forgiven, and blocked cards have been reset. Library borrowers can expect to see these changes reflected on their accounts very soon.
Why go fine-free?
The foundation of the public library is free and equitable service to all; however, we know that a Library fine can create a barrier to access. Removing this barrier gives everyone in our community lifelong access to the library.
Overdue fines disproportionately impact our most vulnerable community members and we know that there are people who would benefit from Library services yet are hesitant to visit the Library or have stopped coming due to fines.
We also know that overdue fines create negative experiences for both our community and staff, and discourage people and families from using the Library. The decision to remove overdue fines was made after closely listening to feedback and input from both the community and Library staff, while also observing the experience of other library systems, including Calgary Public Library and Edmonton Public Library, which have made similar changes.
Hundreds of American libraries have implemented fine-free models, with more Canadian libraries beginning to follow suit. Fine-free libraries report seeing consistently high, and even improved, return rates for items.
Digital collection items, such as e-books, make up a growing proportion of our Library circulation and do not accrue fines. This means that fine revenue has declined over recent years and now is less than 1% of our budget. We foresee that we can absorb this reduction in revenue into our operating budget.
Due to COVID-19, we announced several months ago that we would not collect fines and fees for the remainder of 2020. This was to reduce cash handling and close interactions that could compromise the health of our staff and the public during the pandemic; it was also to ensure continuing access to resources for all during this period.
The Halifax Regional Library Board unanimously approved the fine-free motion in July, and staff has worked swiftly to restructure the Library’s approach to service. Over the past few years, the Library has changed its service approach to be more inclusive, compassionate, and more forgiving of fines. We regularly waive fines, and occasionally offer fine amnesty periods.
Updating our service model to be fine-free was the next, simple step in achieving our vision of being a resource for everyone.
Returns and borrowing information
Other libraries that have moved to a fine-free model report increased circulation, more borrowers, and a reduction in lost materials. In the first weeks of going fine-free Chicago libraries saw a 240% increase in lost book returns!
The books and other items at Halifax Public Libraries belong to the public. We trust our community to take care for our collection and return items when they’re done.
Now that we no longer collect overdue fines, here’s what you need to know about borrowing items from the Library:
- Effective August 5, items borrowed from the Library will not accrue overdue fines.
- We will continue to send borrower notifications to remind people about upcoming due dates and will continue to charge replacement fees if an item is lost.
- All existing overdue fines have been forgiven, and blocked cards have been reset.
- Items not returned after 30 days from the date they are due back, will result in a replacement fee.
For those who viewed paying their fines as a donation to the library and want to help support the Library, Halifax Public Libraries is a registered charitable organization and is grateful for your gifts. Learn more.
If you missed our livestream of this announcement, you can watch the event on YouTube.
If you have any questions about fines and fees, connect with Ask the Library.