Library late fees abolished at USyd and beyond

It’s time to return your library books.

Got a stack of long overdue library books that you occasionally eye with guilt? Or perhaps a dusty old Harry Potter DVD somewhere under your bed? 

It’s time to stop avoiding the library. USyd libraries suspended overdue fines on borrowed items to alleviate stress during the pandemic. This looks like it will remain in place for the foreseeable future.

A University spokesperson told Honi: “There are no plans to reinstate fines or fees for overdue items. We suspended such fees from January 2021 to improve wellbeing for students who may be experiencing financial hardship and reduce time spent by staff processing fines and waiving fees.”

“We do still ask that staff and students return items on time, especially those in our two-hour collection, and items recalled by other clients.”

If you have items overdue, you will be blocked from borrowing or renewing until the items are returned; this is the case at most libraries. Additionally, long overdue items at USyd Libraries may “attract a lost-item bill or, in serious cases, additional academic sanctions.”

USyd is not alone in this move. Last year, the City of Sydney’s libraries also stopped charging fines for overdue items and for good reason.

City of Sydney libraries first removed fines in a series of trials between 2016 and 2021. 

The first of the trials ran for eight months, during which over three times as many overdue items were returned than before. Now, late return fines are permanently gone. 

According to the City of Sydney’s website, their trial showed “removing overdue fines means people are more likely to return their items, and keep coming back to our libraries.”

“Instead of fining people for late items, the City will temporarily suspend their library memberships until the overdue items are returned. Library members will still be charged a replacement cost for materials that are lost or damaged.”

Other local councils have pioneered a similar program stretching from Blacktown to Canada Bay and Randwick. In the Greater Sydney area, 15 have abolished the fee model while 14 still hold out.

USyd, the City of Sydney and other LGAs are joining a worldwide library revolution. In recent years, libraries in the United States, Ireland, and New Zealand, to name a few, have removed their late fees.

Evidence from the city of Denver found that abolishing fines also increased the rate of library card adoption and made the spaces more inviting to families regardless of socioeconomic status.

Libraries without late fines can also deliver better service because librarians are required to spend less time managing the logistics of tracking down late items. Instead, they can spend time helping patrons, ordering new books, and ensuring everything is in its correct place.

So wherever you may live, there’s less reason to fear returning those late books. The librarians and community will thank you for it.