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Calgary library goes fine-free to support community amid COVID-19

Calgary’s new Library at Home program
WATCH (March 25): Calgary Public Libraries are closed, but CEO Mark Asberg joins Global News Morning Calgary via Skype to explain how people can access many learning tools through the new Library at Home program.

All public library locations in Calgary will be moving to a fine-free model to help service residents amid the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

The library announced on Wednesday that all locations will become fine-free as of July 1, with all existing fees being waved.

READ MORE: Calgary Public Library lays off 75% of staff amid COVID-19 pandemic

“Removing barriers and ensuring that all Calgarians, especially children, are not held back from benefitting from the library is the right thing to do,” Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said in a news release on Wednesday.

“I would like to applaud Calgary Public Library for taking this bold step to help Calgarians during a time when the cost of a library fine could determine if you can get the services and resources you need.”

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Along with providing Calgarians with financial relief and barrier-free access, officials noted that a rise in digital use was also a factor in moving to this new model.

Calgary’s new Library at Home program
Calgary’s new Library at Home program

“Digital circulation is now more than a quarter of our total circulation,” CEO of the library, Mark Asberg, said.

“For the library, this is primarily a choice to support access and remove barriers, but it’s also a business choice to respond to a shifting world and reduce reliance on a revenue stream that is disappearing rapidly.”

On March 16, all 21 Calgary Public Library locations closed their doors due to the global pandemic, and since then, officials said online services and programs have dramatically increased.

Calgary declares local state of emergency due to COVID-19, prompting libraries, rec centres to close
Calgary declares local state of emergency due to COVID-19, prompting libraries, rec centres to close

In April, digital circulation was up 56 per cent from last year and online learning course usage through the library went up 169 per cent.

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Since the closure, the library has also registered 5,255 new members, officials said.

READ MORE: Calgary declares local state of emergency due to COVID-19, prompting libraries, rec centres to close

As far as reopening, all public library locations remain closed, and all programs and events have been cancelled until Aug. 31.

Officials noted that libraries are listed in the second stage of the province’s relaunch plan and are still working to develop a reopening approach that will coincide with public health and safety guidelines.

Officials noted that more details on the library’s reopening plan will be made available in the coming weeks.