Auckland Council Libraries has removed existing overdue fines from customer accounts on 1 September and will no longer be charging for overdue items, after councillors approved the proposal in June as part of the Long-Term Plan.
Councillor Cathy Casey, Deputy Chair of the Parks Arts Community and Events committee, says that removing the fines is the right thing to do.
“This is about taking away a massive barrier to library use. By removing the fines, we are opening up our wonderful libraries to all Aucklanders to enjoy.”
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says, “Fines for overdue library books in Auckland were among the highest in the world but were not achieving their objective. Instead, they were just discouraging people from using their libraries.
“Experience from around the world shows that ending overdue fines does not have any negative effects for libraries, such as causing more people to bring their books back late.”
Councillor Casey highlights that libraries serve an important role in our communities that goes far beyond book lending. They provide equitable access to a large number of services, and everyone should feel welcome to use these even during this current lockdown.
“While we can’t visit our libraries at the moment there is still have so much on offer through services like the e-Collections for everyone to enjoy from the comfort of home.”
“When they can open again, we want everyone to feel that a library is their place for personal enjoyment and learning. It’s at an Auckland Council library that people can access information about Auckland’s heritage, connect with their communities, get involved in lifelong learning opportunities, find something for everyone in the whānau to read, and be in a safe space to enjoy all the opportunities on offer, regardless of where they live, work or how much money they earn.”
Auckland Council Principal Advisor for Arts, Culture & Heritage and fines removal project lead, Louise LaHatte, agrees, saying that removing overdue fines is in line with overseas trends.
“More than 600 libraries worldwide have removed overdue fines and there is evidence showing that when a library removes the fines, they experience an increase in membership.”
With more than 50 locations across Tāmaki Makaurau, removing the overdue fines represents the biggest implementation across the Southern Hemisphere and has required a lot of planning, Louise explains.
“We have had to make changes to processes and our systems, but we are really excited about rolling out this on 1 September. Removing overdue fines is something we believe will help all our communities in Tāmaki Makaurau.”
Access Auckland Libraries online
Although all libraries are closed during the COVID-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown, Aucklanders are still able to access many services online, using a phone, tablet or computer, says Louise.
“Our libraries have great eCollections including books, magazines, newspapers, audiobooks, podcasts, movies and documentaries.”
Aucklanders can access these on any digital device by going to the Auckland Council Libraries website to find a whole range of things to do from home.
“Access to LinkedIn Learning courses is available if you are a library member. This is a great online learning tool and was very popular in previous lockdowns when many library members took the opportunity to learn something new. There are also our extensive heritage collections available on Kura Heritage Collections Online and online resources to research your family history.”
Councillor Casey encourages all Aucklanders to take advantage of the online options available.
“If you aren’t a library member yet, I really encourage you to sign up for free online membership and learn or explore something new while in lockdown. It is a fantastic way of growing your knowledge or to just enjoy some relaxing time at home.”
Louise agrees and reminds Aucklanders that there are always exciting initiatives being planned and staff will be looking forward to welcoming customers back when the libraries reopen under Alert Level 2, which is also when you can return physical items you’ve checked out.
“For us, this is just the start. Our libraries are there to serve the community and we are in the process of putting together some ways to welcome Aucklanders back once we are out of lockdown. In the meantime, hang onto any library items you may have and jump online and try something different.”