Sylvan Lake Municipal Library goes fines-free

Sylvan Lake Municipal Library goes fines-free

Overdue fines at the library have been eliminated for all materials

Overdue fines at the Sylvan Lake Municipal Library are a thing of the past. As of Sept. 10 the Library Board of Trustees passed a motion to eliminate the use of overdue fines.

When the pandemic hit Alberta back in March, Parkland Regional Libraries cancelled all overdue fines for libraries in the region. Now, six months on, the Sylvan Lake branch found it was the perfect time to due away with fines all together.

Andrea Newland, library director at Sylvan Lake Municipal Library, says she wants the patrons to feel welcomed at the library, and fines sometimes make people uncomfortable.

“There are a lot of people struggling right now, and we don’t want to be another barrier for them. We know people are using the library now… and we want to make sure they are comfortable coming here,” said Newland.

She continued saying it made sense to make the elimination of overdue fines a permanent fixture. After six months of no fines, she didn’t want patrons to feel confused to suddenly implement them again.

Since removing fines due to the pandemic, the library has not seen any problems with overdue material.

For the most part, Newland says the patrons have been very respectful of returning materials in a timely fashion.

To help over the summer, the library allowed patrons to borrow materials for three or six weeks.

“Its a misnomer that the fines help people bring books back by the due date. Really it just makes people uncomfortable,” Newland said.

“We don’t want our patrons to feel punished or confined. We want people to come to the library and feel comfortable and welcomed.”

There have been a few libraries in Alberta that have moved to this model, including larger libraries in Edmonton and Calgary. Newland says some smaller libraries in the province have never had a fine system set up.

These libraries have seen an increase in patrons and donations since moving to the this model.

“Some patron may donate every couple months or give $20 after coming to a program to cover fees.”

Donations to the library are greatly appreciated and encouraged by those using the library, where they are able.

Newland says patrons to the library have been particularly generous this summer with donations to the library’s Little Free Pantry.

“[The Little Free Pantry] is something that we will still continue to promote moving forward. We have seen generous donations. We are still seing people bring in potatoes, and carrots and other items for the pantry,” she said.

All existing overdue fines have been excused by the library, except for those of lost or damaged materials.

September is also Library Card Sign-up month at the library. A family membership is $20 per year, membership for a senior household is $12.50 per year.