Over $538,000 in late fees set to be wiped as Auckland Libraries go fine-free

Auckland Libraries will stop charging overdue fees from September 1.
Auckland Libraries will stop charging overdue fees from September 1. Photo credit: GettyImages.

Auckland Council Libraries is set to wipe $538,230 in late fees from users' accounts on September 1.

And if items are returned late, library users won't be charged an overdue fee.

A statement released by Auckland Council Libraries on Friday said the initiative was approved by councillors in June.  

"Auckland Council Libraries will remove existing overdue fines from customer accounts on 1 September and will no longer be charging for overdue items," the statement confirms.

Referring to fines as a "massive barrier to library use", Councillor Cathy Casey said the decision to remove fines on books, CDs, DVDs and other resources is to allow more Aucklanders to use its services. 

"Removal of overdue fines removes a critical barrier for Aucklanders who have been blocked from using their library cards to borrow physical items or are too afraid or embarrassed to return to libraries due to overdue fines or other debt," Casey said.

Regardless of where people live, work or how much money they earn, people can "connect with their communities" and find "something for everyone in the whānau to read", she said.

"While we can't visit our libraries at the moment they still have so much on offer through services like the eCollections for everyone to enjoy from the comfort of home," Casey added.

Responding to Newshub's questions on how libraries will ensure items are returned for others to use, Casey said libraries already operate on principles of "high trust".

When people sign up to be library members, they agree to terms and conditions which require them to use the service responsibly, she said.

"We will still have fixed loan periods and regular reminders before books are due and after they become overdue," Casey explained.  

If an item isn't returned within 24 days of the due date, it's regarded as lost. A charge is then added to the customer's account.

"The customer is notified and blocked from borrowing... if the item's returned or the customer pays the fee, they can borrow again," Casey said.

Since COVID-19, she said libraries have seen a steady increase in people using its online services.  

"In the last financial year, 21 percent of items being taken out by customers were for electronic items; a 10 percent increase in the total number issued in the previous year," Casey said.

Under COVID-19 alert level 4 lockdown, Auckland Council Libraries are closed. Items already borrowed can't be returned.  

However, online resources, such as ebooks, eAudiobooks, eMagazines, eNewspapers and other online resources can still be used.