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DCC forfeited almost €90k in library fines to boost memberships

Dublin City Council abolished library fines at the start of this year.
Apr 18th 2019, 6:21 AM 9,932 9

DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL forfeited almost €90,000 in unpaid library fines in 2018 in an effort to boost memberships, newly released figures have shown. 

On the 1 January 2019, the council announced that its library members no longer had to pay fines for overdue items while any existing fines were abolished.

According to figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, DCC was owed €88,953 in unpaid fines in 2018 when it decided to scrap them altogether. 

Brendan Teeling, acting Dublin City Librarian, told TheJournal.ie that DCC factored the abolition of fines into its estimates for 2019, “so there will be no negative impact on services”.

The initiative to abolish library fines was a part of the council’s public library strategy which aimed to remove any barriers that might prevent people from making full use of its libraries. 

“Research has shown that people view fines as a barrier to membership and usage of libraries. In addition, fines disproportionately affect those on lower incomes and can create a negative association with library use for children,” Teeling said when the initiative was announced. 

There is evidence that library services which have removed fines see an increase in usage following their removal and we very much hope that will be reflected now in our Library Services.

It is unknown yet whether the abolition of fines has had any effect on memberships as DDC is still collecting its figures for the first quarter of 2019. 

Decline in fines 

Before DCC abolished library fines it had received €641,175.94 in paid fines over the last five years. 

However, the money DCC received from fines has gradually decreased since 2014 – when it received €223,883.31. 

2015 saw €135,715.12 paid in fines – a drop of €88,168.19 on the previous year.

The money DCC received continued to drop to €96,034.97 in 2016, increasing slightly in 2017 to €98,612.80

In 2018, DCC library members accrued €175,882.94 in library fines. By the end of the year, less than half of that was paid to the council – €86,929.74. 

The decline library fines, Teeling says is down to two main factors. 

Firstly, a few years ago, we extended the loan period for DVDs from one week to three weeks – this meant that the total levied in fines on DVDs was reduced considerably. Secondly, as part of the move to the national system in 2015, the fines were reduced from 50c per item per week or part thereof, to 5p per week, to a maximum of €3 per item.

DCC warned that the removal of fines does not mean a removal of responsibility for those who take out books. DCC said that those who do not either return an item or contact a library staff member to discuss an overdue item before they receive a third reminder will result in your library card being blocked. 

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Adam Daly

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