Edmonton Public Library Eliminates Late Fees

Library Goes Fine Free to Reduce Barriers and Support Community

For immediate release:

EDMONTON, AB, June 11, 2020 — Edmonton Public Library (EPL) has eliminated all late fees for library materials effective immediately.

The motion was passed by EPL’s Board of Trustees on Tuesday, June 9. The Library’s fine free model will permanently reduce barriers to accessing EPL’s resources and services. All existing late fees are forgiven, with the exception of lost materials.

“I want our libraries to be seen as a safe haven for Edmontonians — a place where you’re guaranteed democratic access to information and are treated with dignity and respect regardless of your financial status. Removing late fees helps ensure that,” said Mayor Don Iveson.    

Over 270 public libraries across North America have either eliminated or reduced late fees for library materials in the interest of reducing barriers to accessing library resources and services. 

“Customers most negatively affected by late fees are socially vulnerable individuals, and families with low socioeconomic status,” said Pilar Martinez, CEO of EPL. “This change will support those in our community who need it most, and who have been hesitant to return to the Library because of their overdue materials. We are thrilled to welcome them back to the Library so they can continue to experience our incredible resources and services.”

Late fees were primarily used as a motivator for customers to return materials in a timely manner, however, the unintended consequence is that they disproportionately negatively impact lower-income, marginalized and minority populations. A 2019 survey of nine library systems[1] who had eliminated fines found that none had experienced an increase in late returns, longer wait times or collection gaps. Within six months of removing fines at one public library, circulation increased 16% in children’s materials[2].  Another public library saw a 240% increase in overdue material returns in the month after going fine free[3].

EPL is incredibly proud of and excited about this milestone and is encouraging customers to celebrate this landmark occasion by paying it forward and making a donation to the Library at epl.ca/give. The Library continues to play a meaningful role in building a better community, and during these challenging times Edmontonians can support life-changing Library programs and services by paying it forward.

Library Reopening

While all 21 EPL Branches remain closed due to COVID-19, the Library is actively preparing for reopening in collaboration with the City of Edmonton and Alberta Health Services. EPL has taken its first step towards a phased reopening with Library Takeout holds pick-up service. Currently, the service is operating at EPL’s Lois Hole and Whitemud Crossing Branch and will expand to Clareview and Mill Woods Branch next week, with more locations coming soon.

At the same time, EPL is preparing to provide limited in-person access at some locations so customers can pick up and check-out their holds, and featured collections. EPL will continue to adhere to public health measures in place with limited access, limited hours and capacity, as well as physical distancing.

EPL is committed to meeting customer needs where possible and is collaborating with social agencies to provide access to public computers for communities with digital access challenges. Throughout our closure and all phases of our reopening, customers with computer access still have free and unlimited use of EPL’s digital resources through EPL from Home.

We know it’s hard being apart, and customers can still chat live with EPL to discover new resources, receive book recommendations, answer questions and more at epl.ca/ContactEPL or over the phone at  780-496-7000.

For more information, contact:
Karen Chidiak
Marketing and Communications Manager, Edmonton Public Library

  1. https://sfpl.org/uploads/files/pdfs/commission/Fine-Free-Report011719.pdf
  2. https://ischool.syr.edu/infospace/wp-content/files/2020/04/Overdue-Fines-Advantages-Disadvantages-and-How-Eliminating-Them-Can-Benefit-Public-Libraries.pdf
  3. https://chicago.suntimes.com/news/2019/10/30/20940677/chicago-public-library-no-fines-book-returns-increase-lightfoot