by Sarah Curran, Head of Customer Service, Trafford Council
Trafford Council became the first metropolitan borough to scrap all fines in its libraries in April 2018.
We believe that moving to a completely free loan service will encourage more people to use their local library while offering a service that’s fit for purpose.
In making the case for the abolition of fees, the following points were critical:
- The income from library fines has steadily decreased over the last few years and in 2016/17 it was just £31,000.
- Libraries already contribute to the council’s objectives of maintaining education standards and improving school readiness and abolishing fines would make this easier.
- Convincing elected members that removing fines would improve the library service while also making it more accessible to residents.
- Trafford Libraries now offer a comprehensive e-library (e-books, e-audio books, e-magazines and e-comics) which can be accessed online. This service is becoming extremely popular and fines are not levied against these electronic items. There was a danger that inconsistencies in charging policies for borrowing books, whatever the format, could create difficulties.
Trafford Library Service already innovates by training its customer service advisors to offer council services, introducing volunteers into all libraries, and being one of the first to adopt the Open Plus technology, which allows library opening hours to be extended without staff needing to be present.
Getting rid of fines for everyone is yet another example of how we are making improvements while creating a more user-friendly service. It will hopefully further boost our borrower numbers while also making the loan service fairer.
We’re putting complete trust in people to return what they’ve borrowed but there are already no security barriers in Trafford’s facilities and nothing to stop people walking out with books that haven’t been issued. Since April we've seen no negative effect in terms of books not being returned and loans are increasing.
UK university libraries and American libraries that have already scrapped fines have not noted an increase in books disappearing, but they have observed an improvement in the feeling of goodwill towards the library.
Regular monitoring will allow us to understand the impact of this initiative in Trafford, but we are convinced the removal of fines will further enhance what our libraries have to offer. It’s only by being forward thinking in this way that we can ensure our libraries continue to play a vital role in people’s lives.
More background on abolishing fines can be found on Public Library News.