High Country Library Network set to remove overdue fees for all patrons

Book lovers of all ages will no longer be charged overdue fees in libraries across the High Country Library Network, as local libraries adopt a growing international trend.

24 June 2022

Network member councils - Alpine Shire Council, Rural City of Benalla, Mansfield Shire Council and Rural City of Wangaratta - will remove overdue fees for all members from July 1 2022.

Alpine Shire Mayor Sarah Nicholas said a core mission of libraries is to provide equitable benefit to all members of the community.

“Our libraries are a space for connection, learning and accessing important services,” she said.

“Library memberships give community members the chance to experience something new, and we want that experience to be fair and equitable for everyone.

“Overdue fees were removed for junior and under 18 members from 1 July 2019 - we’re very pleased to be able to offer the same service to the rest of the community.”

Historically, library services have charged fees under three key assumptions - that fines bring materials back faster, generate revenue for the library and teach responsibility.

Cr Nicholas said there is growing evidence to show that these assumptions are untrue, and that fines tend to deter people from accessing the vital services provided by libraries.

“It’s becoming clear that overdue fines have a significant impact on patrons, often causing them to remove themselves from services and stop using their library due to financial impacts, fear and embarrassment,” she said.

“There is a growing worldwide trend to remove fines at libraries, which has been shown to boost both membership and borrowing rates.

“Our libraries are more than a book repository - they are community hubs, social meeting places, and service providers who help people learn, find jobs and access technologies. 

“They help the socially isolated connect with other people in their local community, and they provide a safe space for people to learn, connect and grow.”

Public Libraries Chief Executive Officer Angela Savage said Councils have done the maths and realised it costs more to impose fines than it does to recoup the money.

“Once fines are removed, more books get returned,” she said.

“And people who might otherwise stay away – often the more vulnerable members of the community – are encouraged to return to the library.”

Around 70% of library services in Victoria have now abolished library fines.

Overdue fines will cease to be issued at all High Country Library Corporate libraries from 1 July, 2022.

Charges will still apply for lost or damaged items. Borrowers will still be given a due date and members will receive a reminder if someone else has the items on hold.

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