By Jessica Lovell
As to a group of prodigal sons and daughters, the Guelph Public Library is opening its arms to welcome back its most delinquent members.
If your library card is sitting in your wallet unused because you’re afraid to pull it out and find out how much you owe, or if you did some spring cleaning and found a book you checked out in 2003 under your bed, the library wants to see you. But not to collect your hefty fines and fees.
For one day only, on Jan. 23, the library is offering to forgive your forgetfulness with “Library Fine Amnesty Day.”
“The whole idea behind it is to welcome people back to the library,” said library communications co-ordinator Lisa Cunningham. “This is the first time we’ve done this.”
Here’s how it will work:
• All outstanding overdue items must be returned to any library branch or book drop between 12:01 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. to have their fines and fees waived.
• Library members who have outstanding charges on their account can drop into any branch on Jan. 23 to have their balances cleared.
• Lost library cards – which normally cost $5 to replace – will be replaced free of charge with proof of identification at any library branch on Jan. 23.
Though generally fines are only about 15, 25 or 35 cents per item per day, the fines add up to significant income for the library.
“In 2012, we took in $261,953.36 in fines,” Cunningham said.
In addition to overdue fines, if the library has to replace an item that does not get returned, patrons are charged the cost of the item plus a processing charge, she said. The charges range from $6 to $10 depending on the item.
Perhaps not surprisingly, books are by far the most common item to go missing, said Cunningham, but DVDs, CDs and magazines also fail to return sometimes.
“A lot of DVDs, they get forgotten at the cottage, but then they usually make their way back,” said Cunningham with a laugh.
On fine amnesty day, library staff will not just be looking for those long-forgotten books to be returned to the shelves, they’ll be listening for the most interesting excuses and keeping track of some of the oldest items they receive.
“We’re curious to see what we’re going to receive,” said Cunningham. “We’re kind of interested in seeing if there’s any items that were lost before we went automated.”
The library is not overly concerned about what it might be losing in revenue by forgiving fines for the day, she said.
Currently, the Guelph public library has 75,923 card holders, but only 52,086 are considered active – meaning they’ve used their card within the last three years, said Cunningham.
The goal is to bring some of those inactive users back to active status, she said.
And besides, Cunningham pointed out, “these are items we never would have received the money for anyway.”