DCC reviewing library fines

Tardy book-lovers could be cut off sooner if the Dunedin City Council presses ahead with a lower fines limit for the city's libraries.

At present, library users with outstanding fines worth $20 or more are prevented from borrowing new books or other items until they reduce the size of their bill.

But council arts and culture group manager Bernie Hawke confirmed last week staff were considering whether to lower the limit to $15.

No decision had been made, and any change would not occur before Christmas, but the idea was being discussed as part of ''routine and responsible management'', he said.

''If we do decide that we will change that, then we will be communicating that to our customers and giving them a generous lead-time.

''The council and community would expect us to look at these things from time to time.''

The council shared ''intelligence'' about its fees and charges structure with other councils, and it appeared the $20 cap was ''probably higher'' than libraries in other centres, he said.

A lower limit would encourage more people to return their books sooner, but could also drive more people away from libraries altogether, he said.

''That's the balancing act.

''We have to be sensitive to the fact some people are on fixed incomes. We are ultimately a service, but we're also an asset the council has established for the community good.

''We're trying to be good stewards of that, as well as making it as readily available as possible.''

Fees and charges could accrue in a variety of ways, including rental charges, hold fees, overdue charges and bills for lost and damaged items, he said.

Updated figures on how much the council was owed by library users were not available, but the ODT has previously reported $385,000 was owed in the year to June 2011.

Significant sums were referred to debt collection agency Baycorp or United States-based company Unique Management, which followed up with letters and phone calls and was used by other New Zealand libraries, he said.

-chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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