Stratford, St. Marys and Perth County libraries do away with overdue book ends

Libraries in Stratford, St. Marys and across Perth County are doing away with fines for overdue materials.

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Public libraries in Stratford, St. Marys and Perth County will no longer be fining patterns for most overdue materials.

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After suspending late fees for all library materials at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Perth County Information Network – an online portal that enables residents of Perth County to access the resources of all five participating libraries – announced this week all member libraries would remain fine free indefinitely for the majority of library materials. The network also announced that any existing late fees on borrower accounts would be forgiven as of April 4.

“(Overdue ends) were mostly implemented for three reasons. One was a way to ensure a timely return of library materials. Secondly, they were supposed to teach civic duty, and then a third was to supplement library budgets,” the network’s management committee chair, Kendra Roth, said.

“However, through the past two years with the pandemic, it just highlighted the barrier that was in place because of the library ends. … Our role as a public library is to encourage lifelong learning, exploration and innovation. … We’re hoping to prioritize equitable access to the library resources as a way to engage and support our communities.”

While nearly all of these library collections will be fine free, including print and audio books, magazines, music CDs, most DVDs and both video and board games, the network’s more specialized collections, high-demand materials and borrowable technology, including Xpress books and DVDs, book-club kits, wireless hotspots, technology devices, maker kits, park passes and overdue materials from other libraries, will continue to have late fees applied. Fees will also continue to be charged for damaged or lost items.

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Under this new policy, Roth said borrowers are still encouraged to return library materials on time, but items that have not been placed on hold will be automatically renewed up to three times if not immediately returned after the regular loan expires.

Local libraries will continue to send reminders to patterns with items that are past due. Starting in May, long overdue items will result in users being billed as though their borrowed items have been lost and holds will be placed on their library accounts until their fees are paid or they make another arrangement with their local library. For items borrowed by people who have not responded to any of the previously outlined measures, Roth said libraries will use a materials recovery service to assist in the retrieval of lost items.

“We would send off the employer’s contact information and then they would take over,” Roth said. “They use a very gentle-nudge approach where they just reach out to the patron and they say, ‘The library would appreciate these materials being returned. Please return them.’ And if they return them, all the fines and fees are waived.”

According to Roth, adopting a fine-free policy has become a trend for public libraries across Canada, many of which have since seen a significant increase in circulation and library card renewals.

The Perth County-area libraries have seen a decline in revenue from overdue ends over the past decade, partly thanks to online renewals and the increased use of digital collections. If patrons want to support their library financially, they can make a donation by contacting their local library.

gsimmons@postmedia.com

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