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Halifax Public Libraries eliminate all past and future overdue fines

Halifax Central Library announced Aug. 5 it is eliminating overdue fines and forgiving all existing ones. Alexander Quon/Global News

The library announced Wednesday it going “fine-free” by eliminating overdue fines and forgiving all existing ones.

Blocked library cards have been reset, the library said in a release.

“Removing this barrier gives everyone in our community lifelong access to the library,” the release read.

“We understand that lifelong library usage results in better health outcomes, so if we can remove fines and somebody can stay better connected socially, can have better mental health, can be more literate, can be more employable, that’s good for all of us,” said Chief Librarian and CEO of Halifax Public Libraries Åsa Kachan on Wednesday.

“I think of this as a social equity issue. We’ve had fines that for some families didn’t impact their ability to continue to use the library, and for other families, it was the end of the road,” said Kachan.

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The library said part of its initial response to COVID-19 was agreeing not to collect fines and fees for the rest of the year.

In July, however, the Halifax Regional Library Board unanimously approved a permanent fine-free model.

The library said this was the simple next step in allowing the library to be a resource for everyone.

“When we’ve interviewed people and talked about when the library has mattered most to them in their life, it’s often been times they’ve struggled, at times they’ve been in transition in their lives. So, the idea that that access to us can be unfettered, that there won’t be a barrier in place for somebody to find their way to the library to borrow the materials they need – to support school projects, all of those things – it’s absolutely critical,” said Kachan.

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This model follows hundreds of North American libraries that have already gone fine-free, many of which have reported high, and even improved, return rates for items.

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The library will continue to send borrower notifications to remind people of due dates, and will still charge a replacement fee if an item is lost.

Items not returned after 30 days from the return due date will result in a replacement fee, according to the library.

“The books and other items at Halifax Public Libraries belong to the public. We trust our community to take care of our collection and return items when they’re done,” the release said.

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