Submission to end fines at Wellington City Council Libraries

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A proposal may see fines for overdue items abandoned in Wellington City Council Libraries.  (File photo).

Monique Ford / Stuff

A proposal may see fines for overdue items abandoned in Wellington City Council Libraries. (File photo).

Hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for late items could be wiped out at Wellington City Council Libraries this year.

The move would see the council follow 33 others across the country, including Upper Hutt and Hutt City, to remove debt from unpaid fines, in a bid to encourage library use.

As of November 23, over $635,464 was owed in fines, fees and overdue lost items to Wellington City Council Libraries.

The debt is higher than other councils, such as Christchurch City Council, which agreed last week to suspend the imposition of fines and will clear $82,500 of historic debt from unpaid fines from March 1.

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Auckland Council Libraries waived more than $500,000 in unpaid fines for late returns in September.

In March, the head of the council’s annual plan committee, Councilor Rebecca Matthews, plans to propose scrapping the library fine system and all unpaid debts.

Matthews said the council was “out of step with the rest of the country” with the system, which created an unnecessarily negative relationship with libraries and councils.

“I want to talk to my colleagues about how we can eliminate library fines as soon as possible and open our libraries to more Wellingtonians,” she said.

The implementation of the “no fines” method is supposed to encourage the use of the library and reduce social inequalities.

As of November 23, more than $635,464 in debt was owed in fines, fees and lost items to Wellington City Council Libraries.  (File photo).

Monique Ford / Stuff

As of November 23, more than $635,464 in debt was owed in fines, fees and lost items to Wellington City Council Libraries. (File photo).

Wellington City Council’s head of libraries and community spaces, Laurinda Thomas, said a common assumption was that fines were a motivation for returning items to the library, but evidence from libraries that had put in place Return rates revealed without fines were the same or better than when fines were charged.

“Anecdotally, this has to do with customers’ perception that they’re going to ‘get in trouble’ for returning late items,” she said.

In 2019, Lower Hutt Libraries waived a historic $52,000 late fee in an effort to make services more accessible to tamariki in the city.

At the time, Hutt City Divisional Libraries Manager Kat Cuttriss said the fines were a barrier for children and families unable to pay.

Wellington City Council

Wellington city councilors voted unanimously to repair and modernize the city’s earthquake-prone Central Library, despite public support for a new building. (Video first posted February 2021).

Councils that are fine-free generally take one of two approaches, fines free for all or fines free for children and young adults.

“Many councils were fines free for children and young adults for a period of time before moving to fines free for adults as well. However, some tips have gone free-for-all in a “big bang” style approach. Both options are relatively easy to implement.

“There are pros and cons to both approaches for children and young adults, but both have shown positive results in increasing borrowing by children and young adults,” she said. declared.

Since the start of 2019, over $812,418 has been paid in fines to Wellington City Council.

When a debt is over $20, customers cannot borrow other items or access online collections.

Small outstanding debts are canceled after six years and larger debts are sent to debt collection.

Since 2016, over $108,338 in lost property debt has been written off by the board and over $387,637 in fees and fines.

To encourage people to return items quickly when there are no fines, a block is usually put on a card for any items still overdue after 2-3 weeks, preventing further borrowing.

The hold is removed once the items are returned or an arrangement to pay for the item is made.

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