BONNYVILLE – The new year has marked a new change at the Bonnyville Municipal Library. As of Jan. 1, the local library is no longer charging fines for overdue books and other resources.
The idea behind going fine free has been something the library board has discussed in the past and gained traction in 2021, explains Leah Woodford, the manager for the Bonnyville Municipal Library.
“And the reason that came up for discussion is because research is showing - and other larger libraries are taking the lead on the fact - that library fines are more of a deterrent than an encouragement to return your books,” says Woodford. “And we want to have the library to be a place where there are no barriers.”
What research is finding is that if library users accrue fines and are unable or unwilling to pay them, those people may stop using their local library.
“That's not what we want, we want you to come to the library and use it,” she says.
Woodford tells Lakeland This Week that the revenue collected from late returns was small enough that it didn’t outweigh the benefits of going fine free for library-goers.
“It doesn't create a big revenue gain for us. It's more of a deterrent for our patrons, that was the big reason,” Woodford explains. “For those patrons who maybe racked up some fines and are overwhelmed by coming in and taking care of that – ultimately are not using the library – that's not what we want. We want families and community members to use the library.”
However, it is important to note that any existing fines prior to Jan. 1, 2022, will remain owing. Only fines accrued and accumulated beginning in 2022 will no longer be collected.
Library borrowers are also still expected to renew books when needed and due dates remain, as others may be waiting for those items.
“In this case, people will still be given notice that their item is overdue, and they will return it and then they'll continue to use the library without a barrier,” Woodford says.
“The idea of fines in the past was (it) would create an environment where people would return what they borrowed... People tend to get overwhelmed and return the book and never come back to the library.”
In the past and moving forward, library users will still be expected to cover the replacement costs for any lost or damaged items, which Woodford notes is a part of the sign-up agreement when people receive their library card.
“This is really great news that libraries are in a position to become even more barrier free to allow community members to use the multitude of resources that we have.”
Winning with winter reading
Once again, the Bonnyville library is holding its Winter Reading Contest, in conjunction with Northern Lights Library.
“You record the number of hours you read – if you're aged zero to nine, you add one ballot for about every three hours, and if you're aged 10 to 16 you add one ballot for every five hours. Those 17 and over, it's a ballot for every seven hours of reading,” Woodford explains.
Ballots for the contest and draw can be submitted from Jan. 1 to Feb. 28.
“It is a challenge, that's for sure,” she acknowledges, but the chance at winning one of three Kobos will hopefully encourage residents to get reading.
During last year's Winter Reading Contest, 15 seniors and adults took part, as well as 12 children under the age of nine and five children between 10 and 13. No teens participated in the contest last year.
Participants read an accumulated total of 1,603 hours and one minute.
The top reader from the adult/senior category consumed 243 hours and 55 minutes of literature in the two-month span. For youth under nine, the top reader read 73 hours. The top reader between the ages of 10 – 13 read 50 hours and 55 minutes in the same timeframe.
“We always want to at least meet or beat that in the community. So, we're really hoping that folks will participate,” she says.
With a lack of involvement from teens the year prior, Woodford hopes that schools will consider grabbing a hold of the contest and encourage youth to get involved.
“All the work is done at our end. It's just another great way for like-minded organizations to promote reading.”