Saskatoon Public Library eliminates late fines

The Saskatoon Public Library has wiped out an estimated one-million dollars in fines to try and get more people using the library.
Although late fines will be officially eliminated in the new year, Saskatoon Public Library said the measure is in effect now. Neil Fisher / Global News

Late fines are a thing of the past at the Saskatoon Public Library (SPL).

SPL said Wednesday it will eliminate late fines as of Jan. 1, 2021, though the measure is in effect now.

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The library suspended charging late fines in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic and said the fine amnesty will be extended to the end of 2020.

“Going fine free is something we have been exploring at SPL for many years, and we are thrilled to be making this announcement today,” said SPL CEO Carol Cooley.

“Providing equal access to library services for all Saskatoon residents has always been our top priority, and removing late fines represents a major milestone in that regard.”

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Library officials said late fines mostly impact the most vulnerable people in the city, including newcomers, children and those on fixed and low incomes.

Nearly 20,000 members currently have their library cards blocked due to outstanding fines totalling more than $10.

“We are excited to welcome back many patrons who may have been avoiding the library in recent years due to late fines,” Cooley said.

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However, due dates remain in place and patrons who do not return material will be charged a replacement fee. They may also have their membership suspended until the material is returned, library officials said.

Charged for lost, stolen or damaged items remain in place.

SPL said late fines represent a small amount of its annual revenue, amounting to 0.44 per cent of total revenue in 2019.

Library officials said they are confident the revenue shortfall will be covered through operating efficiencies and cost savings as the result of no longer collecting late fines.