Waimakariri Libraries Ditch Overdue Book Fines

Anyone with a secret stash of overdue library books can breathe a sigh of relief, with Waimakariri Libraries permanently removing late fines for all members. All outstanding fines for returned books have also been wiped from library cards.

District Librarian, Paula Eskett says that by erasing overdue fines, they hope to welcome back many hibernating library members.

“Research shows that these charges that are designed to help manage overdue items are actually deterring people from using libraries,” says Paula.

“As librarians, our value is providing great service and opportunities for our community to connect, not chasing and processing fines.”

Paula says that message was driven home during the Covid-19 lockdown, when staff discovered that over 1,000 children under the age of 16 were unable to access the library’s resources due to overdue fees.

“Often the books had already been returned and relatively small fines were blocking the library card from being used in the library and online,” says Paula.

“It was heart-breaking that kids under lockdown couldn’t access our resources and it went against everything we believe a library should be.”

Most libraries in New Zealand have dropped late fines for under 18’s however Waimakariri joins a small but growing number to extend a permanent fines free scheme to all ages.

Waimakariri Libraries currently have over 13,500 active users, which is just under 22% of the District’s residents. That figure compares well with similar-sized districts in New Zealand, however Paula hopes to see membership grow. She says that going fines free gives Waimakariri Libraries a chance to showcase new services that people may not know about such as online motor manuals, computer learning classes and Kanopy – a Netflix-styled free movie service for libraries.

“We have games for grownups, movie mornings, Lego and craft groups and an ever changing menu of author talks and night events.” says Paula.

“Libraries are a lot different to what you experienced five or ten years ago; books may line our walls, but people fill our spaces.”

According to Paula, the total value of the outstanding charges was significant, however given the historical nature of the fines, it was unlikely that many would have ever been paid.

“When we looked at the staff time taken to process charges we found that in a lot of cases, the cost of dealing with fines and taking payment was as much or more than the fine was actually worth.”

Paula says that library staff will be ringing members who still have overdue or lost books on loan, with the good news that charges will be waived once items are returned.

Some charges and fees will remain in place for permanently lost or damaged items, as well as DVDs, music CDs and new release books for adults. The fines free scheme was introduced on 1 July after being approved in the Waimakariri District Council’s Long Term Plan.

Find out more on the Waimakariri Libraries’ website.