Montreal to drop library late fees

Library visits and borrowing expected to increase once late fees are abolished

Montreal is following the lead of other North American cities – and its largest neighbour – and abolishing late fees for library fines.

Once all boroughs approve the measure, expected by October, library use is projected to increase thanks to the forgiveness of existing debts and no more fines for late material.

A total of $698,695 was collected in 2019 in late fees in Montreal libraries, says executive committee member responsible for Magda Popeanu, adding the city will lose around $700,000 per year as a result of this decision. The pandemic has shown how essential public libraries are to supporting the most vulnerable communities reads a city statement. “By enabling all those who reside in Montreal to have access to culture, knowledge, new technologies and leisure, these institutions are an essential tool for reducing inequalities.”

It is well established that late fees hinder use of libraries, and during the pandemic, the Montreal library network suspended late fees by postponing the dates of return of documents to avoid blocking subscriber files.

The move is in accordance with the position of the Association des bibliothèques publiques du Québec, which supports the movement to abolish late fees and the growing global Fine Free Library movement born in the United States. It also follows Laval, which was Quebec’s largest city to shelve late fees, the amnesty and the abolition of fines in that city in February allowing documents to be returned free of charge after the due date, provided they are in good condition, a move that cost Quebec’s third largest city $843,000.

“Many families no longer come to our libraries because their files are blocked due to late fees,” said Mayor Valérie Plante in a release. “This situation deprives children and other people in vulnerable situations of access to books, culture, but also computers, which are very popular with members.”

Cities that abolished late fees have incorporated new methods of reminders for return dates, including positive and proactive messaging, electronic communications and social media campaigns.

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