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Library fines for late book returns could be on their way out in Buller

28 Aug 2023

Buller District councillors will consider a new fines free policy for all late returned library items at next week’s meeting.

A report to council outlines the benefits of implementing a fines free policy for Buller District Libraries and seeks Council approval to implement the policy. 

The report looks at the outcomes for other libraries in New Zealand and overseas who have removed financial barriers for the community to better access libraries and their resources.

Library Manager Nicky Meadowcroft says she would like to see Buller join a growing number of libraries around the country removing overdue library fees to encourage library use.

“The more people we can encourage to use our libraries, the better. Public libraries are being encouraged to do this to ensure New Zealanders have access to information, reading, learning, and connections to their communities, and we’re all for it.

“The current process for charging overdue fines takes up a considerable amount of staff time and resources. It involves multiple overdue letters, changes to the book and borrower’s status, council debt collection efforts, followed by referral to outside debt collection agencies.

“The cost of staff time and resources chasing after the fines far exceeds the revenue collected, it also permanently damages relationships and causes barriers.  Other libraries that have introduced a Fines Free policy for all, have only had positive outcomes.

“The impact of imposing fines on library users is wide ranging including embarrassment and shame, exclusion, financial hardship, inability to access books and other services and reduced participation and community connection,” says Nicky Meadowcroft.

The fines free policy would apply to all late returned library items including books, DVDs, magazines, and other lending items, effective from 1 October 2023. The staff proposal recommends removing all debt from existing overdue late fees.

Replacement charges would remain in place for library books that are permanently lost, damaged or never returned, so there is an incentive to return the items.

In Buller, 446 people owed $10 or more in August 2023 – of these, 330 have not returned to use the library for at least the previous two years (74%).  268 borrowers owe more than $20 in fines and charges and 41 people owed more than $100. The debt is for lost and damaged items, as well as fines. In the year 2022-2023, approximately $3,744 was collected in fees and charges.

“We’ve heard stories from other libraries of interesting items - long forgotten or thought lost – turning up once the fees are removed. So, if this is approved, we look forward to seeing what might come out of the woodwork,” says Mrs Meadowcroft.

The paper will be considered at next week’s meeting on Wednesday 30 August.


For further information please contact:
Manager Library
Nicky Meadowcroft