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Tasmania abolishes library fines statewide

Tasmania’s libraries are abolishing fines for items that are returned late to library branches statewide, reports ABC News.

From December 2018, failure to return books on time will incur penalties to lending privileges, rather than financial penalties. Lost or damaged items will still incur replacement fees, but instead of flat rates of $20 for books and $30 for DVDs, fees will be calculated based on an item’s individual value and how long it has been on the shelf.

Tasmania is one of lowest-ranking Australian states for literacy, with nearly half of the Tasmanian population functionally illiterate, according to a survey conducted by the state government. Tasmania education minister Jeremy Rockliff said the abolition of library fines is part of an effort to lift state education outcomes by making libraries more accessible. ‘We believe these changes to the library borrowing process will help achieve that goal,’ Rockliff told the Examiner.

Tasmanian Council of Social Services chief executive Kym Goodes welcomed the changes. ‘For most people living on really low incomes, the thought of paying a fee because you’ve forgotten to take a book back on time, or getting a call from a debt collector, can really put a lot of financial stress on someone,’ Goodes told the ABC. According to Goodes, many people have valid reasons for not returning books on time, and should not receive financial penalties.

Executive director of Libraries Tasmania Elizabeth Jack agreed, saying that late fees are a disincentive for people to visit the library. ‘There have been instances where, say, a pensioner who doesn’t have a lot of money has borrowed a couple of books,’ said Jack. ‘They might have forgotten where they put them and then they’re worried about bringing them back in because they’re going to be charged a fine and they don’t have the money to pay it. We may never see that person again.’

The scrapping of library fines in Tasmania follows similar changes in Queensland’s Fraser Coast region and Melbourne’s Casey Cardinia Libraries last year. The City of Sydney is undertaking a four-year moratorium on library fines, after a successful trial that led to almost 70,000 overdue items being returned in 2017.

 

Category: Library news