Library fines scrapped to boost reading habit

Aucklanders say goodbye to library overdue book fines effective 1 September 2021.

By Mel Fernandez,

Photo credit: Artem Ermilov | dreamtime

AUCKLAND – In the last ten years there has been a seismic shift in the reading habits of children and adults. People are spending much more time fixated on a screen searching for information and have less time to get stuck into reading books.

The good old days when the whole family used to troop into a library to borrow a stack of books and read them before the due date are fast disappearing. And what happens when library books are not read by the due date or people forget to return books? Fines are incurred, which seems to put people off from borrowing books.

“Aucklanders have told us that fines were a barrier to using their local library,” says Mirla Edmundson, General Manager Connected Communities. “Looking offshore we’ve also learnt that those libraries that removed fines and implemented amnesties saw high numbers of people returning …”

Currently over 32,000 Aucklanders are blocked from access to their local library. Over $500,000 is owed to Auckland Libraries in late returns. The largest individual fine is $319.90. “Overdue fines are driving people who need libraries away and the removal of library fines is the right thing to do,” adds Edmundson.

Auckland Council Principal Advisor for Arts, Culture & Heritage and fines removal project lead, Louise LaHatte, agrees. “More than 600 libraries worldwide have removed overdue fines and there is evidence showing that when a library removes the fines they experience an increase in membership.”

As of 1st September Auckland Council joined the global trend of removing library overdue book fines – both current and historic.

“At any one time we have less than 10 per cent of items issued that are overdue and the small amount of fines cause a lot of administrative work for council employees to manage.” says Councillor Cathy Casey, Deputy Chair of the Parks Arts Community and Events committee.

Councillor Casey says that removing the fines is the right thing to do.

“This is about taking away a massive barrier to library use. By removing the fines we are opening up our wonderful libraries to all Aucklanders to enjoy.

“While we can’t visit our libraries at the moment there is still so much on offer through services like the eCollections for everyone to enjoy from the comfort of home.”