At the regular October meeting of the Windsor Public Library Board, a motion was unanimously approved which brings back late fees and fines to library users effective November 15, thus ending the trial “fine free” period which had existed since January, 2012.
In making the announcement, Library Board Chair, Dr. Peter Frise said that, “everything the WPL Board has done recently, and any plans it has for the future, is directed at providing the best library service to the Windsor community and enhancing access to the best materials for everyone – all at a cost which fits with our city’s budget and is sustainable. The Board as it is presently constituted is united on these principles.”
In January, 2012, Windsor Public Library eliminated the charging of overdue fines on a trial basis and later abolished fees to rent library facilities. Among comparator libraries*, Windsor is the only library not charging late fees.
Currently, when WPL customers have even one item overdue, their accounts are immediately blocked and they cannot use any of WPL’s many online databases, check out materials or enjoy other library services. After November 15, 2013, customers will have to accumulate $20 in fines before their accounts are blocked. And because WPL is introducing online payment capabilities concurrent with the end of the no fines trial period, customers will have the opportunity to bring their accounts into good standing from the comfort of their homes, schools, or workplaces without having to attend a branch in person.
WPL customers who continue to return their items on time will not be affected by the reintroduction of fines.
In recognition of the importance of the library to children and young adults, the new overdue fine scale is graduated, with fines of only 15 cents/day for regular three-week materials borrowed on juvenile and YA cards (juvenile cards = 12 years and under, YA cards = 13 to 17 years old).
“The financial environment we operate in necessitates that we review all library operations with the intent of maximizing expenditures on materials. New, fresh, and current materials are what customers expect and without continued customer use, the library would quickly become irrelevant. The elimination of fines and fees during 2012 and 2013 has decreased our budget by close to $200,000. Much of this would have been directed to purchase new materials,” said Acting CEO Chris Woodrow.
Additionally, a review of the trial period determined that:
• the consensus from customers is that they would rather pay fines than have their accounts blocked. Currently, their accounts are immediately blocked when just one item becomes overdue;
• an increase in the late return of many more items since there are no fine consequences associated with overdue materials;
• simultaneously, and whether coincidentally or not, many more items are going missing; and
• customers who have borrowed new items which other patrons have placed on hold are keeping those items longer because no late fees apply. Thus, customers waiting on holds are now waiting significantly longer than they would have if there were late fees in place.
“When materials are returned on time, more people are able to use them,” said Acting CEO Chris Woodrow, adding that, “one measure of library efficiency is determining the turnover rate of an item within the community to show maximum usage. We want our items to enjoy maximum usage by the maximum amount of customers. We want our materials returned and there is a belief, substantiated by customer feedback, that small fines are the best way to enforce return of materials in a timely manner.”
Also effective November 15, are revised fees and charges for other miscellaneous library services (see chart below) and the re-introduction of other assorted fees for service.
*Comparator libraries are: Cambridge, Hamilton, Kitchener, London, Markham, Mississauga, Oakville, Richmond Hill, Thunder Bay, and Toronto.
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Chris Woodrow 519-255-6770, ext. 4430