The Saskatoon Public Library is forgiving all outstanding late fines hoping to win back its members and transition to a new system in what the library president is calling the ‘awkward campaign.’
“It’s awkward because people owe us fines and they stopped using us because they can’t afford to pay,” said library president and CEO Carol Cooley. “Our staff have had interactions with patrons where they say they can’t afford to pay their fines down below $10 therefore they can’t borrow any materials.”
The balance of these outstanding fines tops $1 million. While Cooley said they do depend on fines for revenue, many date back to 2000, so she said it’s unlikely they will see them paid.
“This is money we were never going to collect, these are people who use the library, incur fines and can’t pay so then they stop using us,” she said. “It’s only a source of revenue if we can collect on it. So if we can’t collect something from people who cannot pay, then it’s not a revenue at all.”
On the other side of the coin, the library needs to clear the fines to switch to a new library system known as Polaris. Cooley said members shouldn’t expect to see another fine-forgiveness in the future.
“I don’t think this is setting any precedent — the reason we need to do this is because we’ve migrated to a new library system and we need to clear up the records and we can’t clean out the records unless we waive those fines,” she said.
Current library late fees are set at 30 cents per day for adult books and 20 cents a day for young adults. Those fees shoot up to one dollar a day for DVDs, so one person can take out seven DVDs and after the week-long loan expires fines can quickly add up.
“These fines are set on a provincial level and it’s something that needs to be reviewed, that’s a hefty fine for keeping a DVD,” Cooley said.
While waiving late fees, the Saskatoon Public Library also hopes to clear out any charges to children’s library cards, which in some cases are actually being used and abused by their parents.
“What we’ve found in the past is that adults were using their children’s library cards, racking up all kinds of overdue fines, not paying them and when kids come to get a teen card or an adult card they have all these outstanding fines on these cards,” Cooley said.
For the most part, many books and DVDs have been returned to the library, the fines just haven’t been paid.