Surrey Libraries Eliminates Overdue Fines

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Surrey Libraries is excited to announce the permanent elimination of overdue fines on materials. The Library has been fine free since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. In September 2021, the Library Board of Trustees voted to permanently eliminate overdue fines, pending Council approval of the City’s 2022 budget. City Council approved the Library’s annual budget at their meeting Dec 24, allowing for the change to become permanent.

“Our Libraries are one of the most-valued and most-used resources in Surrey. The programs and services of Surrey Libraries are integral in supporting our vision of a thriving, inclusive city,” said Mayor, Doug McCallum. “Overdue fines are a barrier to many residents to access library services and that is why Council is pleased to remove this barrier so all our residents can enjoy the library to the fullest extent.”

Several other neighbouring library systems have recently announced the permanent elimination of overdue fines, including the Fraser Valley Regional Library, Burnaby Public Library, and Richmond Public Library.

“Suspending fines during the pandemic showed us that fines are not what prompt people to return books and materials to the Library,” said Surrey Libraries chief librarian, Surinder Bhogal. “Eliminating fines actually provides more equitable access to Library services, increases users and circulation of materials, and reduces lost materials.”

All historic overdue fines on patron records have also been erased.

“We know that fines disproportionately affect low-income households, especially families with children or other people facing barriers,” said Marilyn Herrmann, chair of the Board of Trustees. “Eliminating fines ensures Surrey Libraries can continue to serve all families and individuals who benefit greatly from its services.”  

Total revenue from fines was less than 1.2% of the Library’s annual operating budget in 2019. Revenue from fines was also steadily decreasing in the last decade, with many patrons switching to eBooks and eAudio which are returned to the Library automatically on the due date.

This change will not affect due dates, nor fees charged for lost or damaged items. Patrons are still responsible for charges related to unreturned, damaged, and lost material.

Seline Kutan - Director, Communications and Advancement, Surrey Libraries