By John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Strathmore Municipal Library is eliminating membership card fees and overdue fines following a funding contribution from the Town of Strathmore.

Beginning this year, library users will no longer have to pay for membership, nor will they be penalized for late returns on borrowed items. 

Director of Library Services Rachel Dick Hughes said the team is excited about the move, as fees and overdue fines have long-since been a deterrent to library use.

“It was a small amount of our budget, but because we’re a not for profit and it’s been a hard couple of years, we’ve lost a lot of income on things like room rentals,” said Dick Hughes.

“The extra funding from the Town of Strathmore was critical to making this happen. It was in addition to our usual per capita funding.”

The elimination of fees also aims to encourage those, for whom that may have been a barrier, to make use of the library services and encourage literacy for the entire community. 

According to Dick Hughes, the library’s board has been working towards the goal for a while now and is glad to see that the Town was on board to make it happen.

“The board approached council and let them know that, for this amount, we could eliminate fees and explained why that’s important in terms of accessibility for everyone in the community,” explained Dick Hughes. “We find overdue fines really affect certain people more than others. If you can afford it, it’s almost like a feel-good thing – you come to pay your fines and it’s your donation to the library and everybody’s happy.”

By 2021, only one per cent of the library’s budget was reliant upon overdue fines and another three per cent came from library cards. 

The extra contribution from the Town of Strathmore was in the amount of $21,000 for 2022 to cover the loss of revenue associated with the elimination of fees.

Dick Hughes also clarified the association between the penalty of late fees and users returning borrowed items is a common misconception.

“A lot of libraries have gone fine free and the vast majority find there’s no real difference in the return rates on their items,” she explained. “Library users are generally really diligent, responsible people who sometimes make mistakes, just like anyone, and we want to make sure they’re not punished unduly for no really good reason for losing a book.”

One of the hopes behind the move is to potentially remedy some negative experiences users may have had with the library and encourage them to continue coming back to utilize the facility.

Regularly scheduled and budgeted library programming will remain unaffected by the changes.

Users can register for their free library cards either in person or online.

This item is reprinted with permission from Strathmore Times, Strathmore, Alberta. See article HERE.

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