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Public libraries aim to provide equitable and accessible service, and the Barrie Public Library has taken a monumental step in advancing that goal. Effective July 1, 2020, the Barrie Public Library Board has approved the removal of late fines from borrowed materials returned after the due date.

“In recent years, hundreds of libraries in North America have transitioned to a Fine Free model,” said Lauren Jessop, CEO of the Barrie Public Library. “Fines are punitive and stand in the way of the core library value of providing equitable library service. They disproportionately impact families with young children, teens, newcomers, and visible minorities.”

Over 11,000 Barrie Public Library members had their accounts blocked due to fines with 2,200 of those accounts belonging to children and teens. These families were no longer able to access books and resources that promote lifelong literacy, when research clearly identifies that literacy development is closely linked to interactions with books and reading in the early years.

 “Our staff time is best spent connecting with patrons to assist them in moving their lives forward, sparking curiosity and discovering opportunities,” Lauren continued. “Our Strategic Plan prioritizes inclusion, reducing barriers and service excellence. Implementing a fine free model connects to each of these priorities and fundamentally it is the best approach to our role in community development.”

The minimal revenue generated by fine collection, pales in comparison to the member benefits. While it might seem like removing fines would discourage members from returning items, the opposite has been found to be true. In a study of nine libraries that eliminated fines, there was no marked increase in late returns, longer wait times for holds or gaps in their collection. Instead, they saw an increase in the number of borrowed items and more active library members. All late fines currently on members’ accounts will be waived. However, the Library will still be charging members for lost or damaged items.

For those who wish to pay their fines forward or celebrate this milestone, the Library invites contributions to their Resiliency Fund, which will provide support for the challenges that lie ahead and help serve the evolving needs of residents when facilities fully reopen. For more information on how to contribute, visit the Library’s Canada Helps online donation page

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