Fines for overdue library items shelved in Christchurch

Library fines are on the way out in Christchurch and any debts will be removed. Photo: File image
Library fines are on the way out in Christchurch and any debts will be removed. Photo: File image
Christchurch library users who have racked up fines for overdue items no longer need to worry about them.

At their meeting on Thursday, Christchurch city councillors voted to remove all charges for overdue items and wipe historical debts from March 1.

There will also still be charges for items deemed to be lost.

Said Mayor Lianne Dalziel: "We are joining a growing number of libraries around the country and the globe which are taking away fines to encourage library use.

"The more people who are taking advantage of everything our libraries have to offer, the better."

"We’ve heard today how fines have become a barrier for some people accessing Christchurch City Libraries, especially for those who cannot pay and we want to remove that."

However, Crs Aaron Keown, Sam MacDonald, Catherine Chu and James Gough voted against removing the fines. The other 13 councillors and Dalziel supported the move. 

The council's decision to remove library fines was sparked by Cr Sara Templeton, who brought a Notice of Motion to the council late last year.

Library fines for overdue items are currently 70 cents a day with a maximum penalty of $21. Users are also blocked once they have $30 or more in unpaid fines and charges, or owe fines for more than 21 days. Once this happens, they are not able to borrow items, place holds or access eResources.

The annual revenue relating to library fines was about $300,000, which would no longer be recovered, but there would be some administrative savings.

"The evidence shows that eliminating fines frees up staff to help library users and that people are encouraged to return items," Dalziel said.

"Uncomfortable conversations about why people can't afford to pay fines can instead become an opportunity to discuss the importance of returning library items so others can also benefit from them."

She said evidence elsewhere also suggested when fines and debts for overdue library items are wiped, items thought to have been lost from the system are returned.

"We will still be making sure the book you’re after is available so reminders will still be sent to make sure items are returned," Dalziel said.

The annual revenue relating to library fines is about $300,000 which would no longer be recovered, however, there would be some administrative savings.

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