Libraries ACT will close the books on its fines for overdue items and daily accumulative penalties will be scrapped as part of a new approach to managing borrowing and to ensure everyone is still able to use the public resource.
All current fines for overdue items – the majority of which are over five years old – will be forgiven and the 25-cents-a-day fines system will be replaced by temporary suspension of library privileges until the overdue items are returned or renewed.
Fees will be only be charged if items are not returned or renewed within four weeks of their due date as the library will consider them lost.
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The announcement follows last year’s Assembly committee inquiry into ACT libraries, which received several submissions showing how fines create a barrier to using library services. The Committee encouraged the library to review the application of financial penalties for overdue books.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said library fines tended to impact low-income Canberrans more than others and it restricted their long-term access to library services.
“We want to encourage as many people as possible to use our libraries,” he said. “As many as three-quarters of people in the ACT who have received a fine for an overdue library item have never borrowed another item. We hope this reform will encourage more people to come back to our libraries as they are a vital part of our community.”
He said some fines go back about 15 years when the last computer system was developed and the ACT Government was never going to get the money back anyway.
All of the more than 250,000 library memberships will start with a zero balance for monies owing from fines or damaged books from 21 November when the new library management system comes into place.
Minister for City Services Chris Steel expected to see more people borrowing items and using library resources.
The aim was to encourage people to return overdue items without fear of fines and renew their connection with the library.
“By no longer charging fines for overdue items, we will be joining a growing number of libraries around the country and the world who are looking for new ways to manage the issue of overdue items, which is a constant challenge for all library services,” Mr Steel said.
The announcement comes before a new Integrated Library Management System comes online with an all-new and improved catalogue with expanded resources.
All library branches will be closed on 20 November 2019 to change over to the new computer system. Branches will reopen the following day on 21 November 2019.