News | 14 June 2023
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Libraries doing just fine without fines

A year on from removing overdue fines, Wellington City Libraries (WCL) has seen some significant changes around customer behaviour and their working environment.

A floor-to-ceiling mural, featuring bright colours and nature-inspired shapes like bird footprints, alongside the stairwell at Te Awe Library.
Te Awe Library

Following on from going fines free from 1 July 2022, WCL has surveyed customers to see how the change had been received, as well as looking at the impact of the change on service, lending and usage rates.

Overall, there has been a 6.5 percent increase in customers using their library cards. 

Customers report that the library seems more friendly without fines and they use the library more often as a result. 

Library staff also love the new policy observing the library communities feel much happier and difficult conversations have been reduced dramatically.

The circulation and return rates of items are similar with most people continuing to return their items promptly. There has also been a significant reduction (27 percent) in the number of customers who have had to proceed to a debt retrieval process.   

Councillor Rebecca Matthews was one of the key supporters for WCL going fines free.

"I'm excited about the big increase in teenagers having and using library cards. Fines free is working to remove barriers for Wellingtonians to use our wonderful libraries."

Laurinda Thomas, Manager Libraries & Community Spaces, says all the evidence proved to be correct with mainly positive outcomes after introducing a fines free policy at other libraries around the world.

“The decision to remove overdue fines is a global trend as libraries address the rising cost of living situation, aim to remove the stigma of not being able to pay late fees, while also promoting reading. 

“Since eliminating fines at our libraries return rates are better, customer numbers are higher, and access is easier for everyone – so it has been a win, win, win!” adds Laurinda.

As a result of the survey, some minor changes have been implemented including improving how customers are notified of overdue items and alerting customers who have borrowed an item where there are multiple people waiting for the same book.