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Trafford MBC: Why we've abolished library fines

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When Trafford Library Service moved to a completely free loan service in April, it was the latest in the long line of innovations. 

We’ve led the way by training our customer service advisors to offer council services, introduced volunteers into all libraries, and been one of the first to adopt the open+ technology. This allows customers to use the library securely without staff being present.

Abolishing fines for everyone is another example of how we are aiming to create a more welcoming and user-friendly service. The council wants to ensure all of Trafford has access to a modern, fit for purpose service that can thrive as a hub in the heart of each community.

Scrapping fines makes the loan service fairer (customers who borrow e-books have never been subject to fines). It also encourages more people to become borrowers and take advantage of the wide range of library activities that are on offer, so boosting social inclusion.

The number of books borrowed over the last year has increased by 5%. We want to continue this trend, especially as we will be opening four new libraries over the next two years. We felt it was important that people weren’t put off for fear of incurring a fine if they didn’t return something on time. Prior to our change of policy in April, borrowers could be charged 15p every day a book was late, up to a maximum of £10.

However, the income generated from fines has been steadily decreasing over the last few years, thanks to the introduction of email notifications when books are about to go overdue, plus the ability to renew items up to eight times.

Now we’ve gone one step further and we’re putting faith in people to return what they’ve borrowed. Trust is a key part of public libraries; there are no security barriers in Trafford’s facilities and nothing to stop people walking out with books that haven’t been issued. Self-service kiosks and the open+ system have already worked well, so we are confident the removal of fines will only serve to further enhance what our libraries have to offer.

A number of American libraries, along with some UK university libraries, have previously abolished fines for students, and have reported no adverse effects from doing so. There has been no increase in books not being returned, but the feeling of goodwill towards the library has improved.

We’re expecting to have a similar experience in Trafford, but we will carry out regular monitoring to fully assess the impact of this initiative.”

Sarah Curran, head of customer service, Trafford MBC

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Readers' comments (1)

  • interesting but data free..how much was fine income...how many staff posts have been reduced by self service...how many books were not returned before and how many now...

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