Cornwall Library Service has announced that it will no longer charge fees if items are returned late. That said, users are still encuraged to return them on time, if possible.
Cornwall Council portfolio holder for neighbourhoods, Carol Mould, said: “Overdue charges disproportionately affect those who can least afford them. For some, the cost — or even just the threat — of overdue charges becomes a big enough barrier to stop them using the library at all.
“Libraries are here for everyone and we’ve probably all been in the situation where, in the rush of everyday life, we’ve forgotten to return or renew our library books. Cornwall’s residents need no longer let the concern about incurring overdue charges stop them from using these amazing resources.
“Libraries are far more than a building full of books. Residents who haven’t used the service for a while may be surprised at how much their local library has changed, with activities and events for all age groups.”
Cornwall is joining a growing worldwide movement for ‘fine-free’ libraries. All libraries in Ireland are now fine-free, as well as many in Scotland, Wales, and Northern England.
Authorities who have made the change to fine-free have seen libraries used more and, perhaps surprisingly, an increase in the number of books returned. Often, borrowers with overdue items would just keep them and never return to the library. Removing charges allows these lapsed borrowers a way back into using their library.
Totals of overdue charges have been reducing year on year with customers able to easily renew books online and via the library app. Some libraries found that it was more expensive to collect the charges than the value of the charges themselves.
Cornwall Council’s head of the Library Service, Julie Zessimedes, said: “Libraries are such vibrant, positive spaces. They provide free access to information, reading, and community-building groups such as Rhymetime, Lego Club, and Knit and Natter.
“Yet many still equate them with a shushing librarian and the fear of incurring late charges. This Victorian image needs to change and, hopefully, by removing overdue charges, we have gone some way towards doing that.”