Fine Free FAQs

Why did the library go mostly fine free?/ Why did the library want to get rid of fines?

In short:

– Studies have shown that fines do not actually deter people from returning items late

– Fines disproportionately affect those who may need our services the most

– We want everyone to be able to access our library without having to worry about financial repercussions for bringing back materials a few days late because life got in the way

The Big Idea

This is your Library. It belongs to you, and all other residents of Innisfil. When you borrow a book or a DVD, you’re borrowing it from your neighbour. We trust that you’ll do your best to return things on time, and if you occasionally miss the due date, we want to make sure you can still use your Library. 

We used to charge fines to all members for returning materials late. Overdue fines are a traditional policy among most public libraries throughout North America and beyond, but in recent years this has started to change. Overdue fines are meant to deter people from returning materials late, but when this was studied in detail, there was a surprising discovery – there is no evidence that these fines have the intended result; rather, they actually encourage the very outcome they are meant to prevent – the loss of material.  

What’s worse, is they keep people from using library services. One mistake, that we can all make, can cause people to stop borrowing books or visiting the Library for years. We know this from talking to residents of Innisfil, who told us this is exactly what happens. Sometimes the threat of overdue fines prevents them from allowing their children to sign up for a library membership in the first place. 

Overdue fines create a barrier for those who are most in need of our services, especially now when so many people around the world have been affected economically by the COVID-19 pandemic. The unintended result of overdue fines is one of social inequity: people who can afford to pay fines can access their Library, and those who cannot are shut out. At the time of this decision, 11% of library card holders in Innisfil were blocked from the Library’s services due to late fines and fees. This goes against the mission of the Library. 

With all of this in mind, the library decided that eliminating fines would be a way to provide greater access to all of our amazing services and resources as well as welcome back members we may have lost over the years. If you have old library material from years ago, it’s ok. Bring it back and all is forgiven. We want you to make use of our services again!

What does going fine free mean for me?

– Overdue fines will no longer be applied to your account 

– You’re still responsible for returning everything you borrow. Please do your best to return them on time, someone else may be waiting or them

– If you do keep items past their due date, they will be marked as lost on your account after 21 days (3 weeks) and replacement fees will be applied. You won’t be able to borrow anything if that happens, or use the Digital Library. We’ll waive those charges and reactivate your account if you return the items before they become 6 weeks overdue.

– Sign up for e-notifications to stay in the loop! You’ll receive reminders notifying you when your items are almost due or past due.

– Overdue fines will still apply to Maker and mediaLAB kits and equipment

What qualifies as an overdue fine? How does it differ from a replacement fee?

Fines were a punitive measure applied to late materials to encourage that they be brought back on time. Studies have now shown that fines do not increase the chances of items being returned on time and add barriers to access the library’s services.

A fee is applied to an account to cover the loss or damage of Library materials. Fees will still be applied to items that are lost or damaged.

Does this apply to all current fines or only fines going forward?

All fines currently applied to accounts will be removed (except for those associated with maker and mediaLAB kits and equipment). Replacement costs for items that are lost or damaged will remain.

If you notice a late fine on your account after July 1, 2020, please contact the Library.

So, no matter how late I return items, I’ll never be charged a fee?

No. Once your item is three weeks (21 days) overdue, it will be marked “lost” and the replacement costs will be applied to your account. As long as it’s returned before it becomes 6 weeks overdue, the charges will be removed and you won’t owe us anything. 

I didn’t really lose these items, can I still bring them back?

Yes! Bringing back items will remove the replacement costs from your account so you can continue using your card and our services.

What if I lose or damage an item?

A replacement fee will be added to your account for the lost or damaged item and the account holder will be responsible for the cost. Borrowing privileges will be suspended after accruing $25 in fees. 

Will people return items if they don’t have to pay late fines?

Hundreds of libraries across the continent have stopped charging late fines over the last few years. They report that items were returned at similar rates, or return rates actually increased after they changed their policy.

What email notices will I get?

We’ll send you four (4) reminders: a pre-due notice 3 days prior to due date, a notice on the due date, an overdue notice 7 days after the due date, and an additional overdue notice 14 days after the due date. At three weeks (21 days) after the due date, members will receive a Lost Notice and the full replacement fees will be applied to their account. Library cards will be blocked once they accrue $25 in replacement fees. Once the items are returned, these fees will be removed.

I thought of fines as a donation to the library. Can I still donate to the library?

Yes! Donations to the Library can be accepted through PayPal here. All donations will go towards supporting important library services for our community.

Are other libraries fine free?

Yes! The trend is growing and more libraries around the world are expected to adopt a fine free model over the next few years. You can see many other fine free libraries on this map:

How can I get a library card?

If you need to set up a new account, use our Membership Form to get started. Add a note that you would also like to borrow physical materials and we will get in touch to get you set up with full borrowing privileges.

I haven’t visited the library in years. Will my library card still work?

Library accounts must be renewed every year. Please contact the library to help you reactivate your account.