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KFPL eliminating fines for overdue library books

Library patrons no longer need to worry about paying back fines on overdue library books.

The Kingston Frontenac Public Library (KFPL) Board unanimously approved the Chief Librarian’s recommendation to permanently eliminate late-return fines on all library materials in 2021, according to a release from KFPL dated Tuesday, Dec 15, 2020.

“Hundreds of libraries across North America have already taken this step,” says Laura Carter, Chief Librarian and CEO. “It’s a fundamental change to how we operate – essential to making our library truly equitable and accessible for all.”

According to the release, 16,326 patrons of KFPL currently owe fines for overdue items, and 913 are unable to borrow library materials at all because they owe more than $20.  

“Removing this financial barrier will make a positive difference to so many,” says Monica Stewart, Chair of the Kingston Frontenac Public Library Board. “It sends out a clear message that we are here for everyone – and our staff will be able to focus on the positive with our patrons, connecting them with everything the library has to offer.”

To help make the fine-free announcement, KFPL put out a call for homemade snowflakes on their social media accounts earlier this month. According to the release, each snowflake displayed on the windows of the Central Branch represents one of those 913 blocked accounts.

All 16 branches of the Library will join in the celebrations with their own snowflake display.  “We would have a difficult time making enough snowflakes to truly express the impact of this change,” says Carter. “913 accounts are blocked, but that’s only part of the story. 6,078 patrons with fines haven’t used the Library at all this year. There are countless others in our communities that don’t have a library card because they are afraid of incurring fines or have had negative experiences at the Library because of fines.”

KFPL says staff have already begun the process of removing all existing overdue charges from patron accounts. Charges for lost or damaged materials will still apply — but if you have recently discovered long lost library materials, KFPL asks you to simply put them in the return chute at any branch. Staff will clear any lost charges from your account, with no questions asked and no late fees applied.

While you may suspect that removing fines will result in fewer items returning on time, other libraries have seen continued respect for due dates along with an increase in borrowing. “Our community values this shared resource,” said Carter. “We’re confident most items will still come back on time. But sometimes life gets busy, and getting items back a few days late shouldn’t be a cause for worry.”

Some people viewed their overdue fines as a donation to the Library, KFPL said in the release. The library says they would be delighted to receive donations in celebration of this milestone, or at any point during the year.

“Many people already donate regularly to help support library programs and services, or in appreciation for the work we do in the community, and we are very grateful for that,” says Carter. She hopes that anyone able to do so will consider donating the amount they would have paid in fines. Donations can be accepted at any branch or made online. The Library is a registered charity and tax receipts can be issued for donations of $10 or more.

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