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OPL permanently eliminates overdue fines on all library materials

October 19, 2020

Oakville Public Library (OPL) Board voted unanimously to move to a permanent fine-free model. This is an extension of the existing policy introduced in 2019 for the permanent elimination of overdue fines on children’s materials and OPL’s COVID community response to eliminate fines since the start of the pandemic.

Overdue fines create negative experiences for customers and staff, and discourage people and families from using the Library. This Library Board-driven initiative will support barrier-free access to literacy for all and help fulfill OPL’s values to providing access to resources for information and recreation as well as offering a welcoming and supportive environment. This move also follows industry trends of Canadian libraries adopting a fine-free model.

“We’re excited to offer this change to a fine-free model at OPL, and believe this new policy will provide members of the Oakville community with improved access to our physical materials, regardless of their background or socioeconomic status,” says Councillor Jeff Knoll, Chair of OPL’s Library Board of Directors. “We know that overdue fines disproportionately impact the vulnerable in our community and we know that there are people reluctant to use Library services or have simply stopped coming due to fines.”

Overdue fines – also called late fees – accumulate on any library materials that are not returned on or before their due date. Library materials included in this initiative are print materials, audio-visual materials, technology (Wi-Fi Hotspots, laptops, etc.), Tinker Toys, sports lending equipment, or other kits. This does not apply to fees related to lost or damaged items, holds expired, referral fees, or any administrative fees.  Historically, libraries operating in a fine-free model are shown to increase their circulation, increase usage amongst lapsed and non-users of the library, and enhanced goodwill amongst existing customers.

To ensure borrowed items are still returned in a timely fashion, OPL is implementing a limit of two overdue items per account. Library accounts with more than two overdue library items will be prevented from borrowing more physical materials until the overdue materials are renewed or returned.

Overdue fines in this category represent a small percentage of the library’s operating budget. Eliminating these types of fines aligns with OPL’s strategic priorities and will not have a significant impact on their overall budget.

Information about Borrowing and Fees


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