Featured initiative

Your Library is Fine Free

It's the right thing to do now

The Library has moved to a Fine Free model to help more Calgarians access their free resources. Calgarians are going through an incredibly difficult time, and this is one way that the Library can help.

Over 53,000 Calgary Public Library memberships were blocked as a result of incurring fines in excess of $10. Among blocked cardholders, 27% were part of households with children aged 0-4 living at home. Of youth cardholders across Calgary, 12% were blocked. This transition to a Fine Free model means 19,000 more children in our community will now be able to check out books from the Library.

In recent years, more than 100 major libraries in North America have transitioned to a Fine Free model, representing a commitment to equitable and accessible service, while increasing users, circulation and reducing lost materials.

Donations to the Resiliency Fund will help offset lost revenue due to the removal of fines this year and support removing other barriers to access in the future.

  • 12%
    of youth cardholders were blocked, representing 19,000 children
  • 53,000
    Calgary Public Library memberships were previously blocked
  • 27%
    of blocked cardholders were households with children aged 0-4

Frequently Asked Questions

Calgary Public Library is committed to providing equitable access for all patrons. Fines are barriers that often penalize the most vulnerable families and individuals.

The benefits of going fine free include:

  • Improved customer service at Library locations
  • Increased use of the Library
  • Providing barrier-free access to all
  • Reallocation of staff time to programs and services

Read the Library’s full media announcement here

Library staff are already trained to waive fines and remove barriers for those in need, but this often requires patrons to advocate for themselves. By removing the inequitable burden of fines, we create an environment that is empathetic and inclusive for all.

The Library does not expect significant changes to wait times for holds. Many libraries that have gone fine free have seen an increase in the return rate of overdue materials. Chicago Public Library saw a 240% increase in returned materials in the first three weeks after implementation of their Fine Free model. The Collections team will continue to monitor the holds list and purchase additional copies of popular materials as necessary.

All Library materials will still have due dates and members will receive reminders when items are due and cannot be renewed. By removing fines, members are less likely to avoid returning to the Library and more likely to bring items back.

Members are still responsible for the items they borrow. Materials that are 35 days overdue will be considered lost and members will be billed the replacement costs.

Fine revenue is already on the decline, dropping 18.5% since 2015. Fines are not a sustainable revenue model for public libraries and currently only make up 1.5% of the Library’s revenue. The Calgary Public Library Foundation, with support from its donors, will fundraise to offset lost revenue from fines in 2020. Eliminating fines aligns with the Library’s mission and should not have a significant impact on the overall budget and operations. The Library will also continue to charge a fee for lost materials.

Donations to the Resiliency Fund will help offset lost revenue due to the removal of fines this year and support removing other barriers to access in the future.

Funds raised will be directed to the Resiliency Fund at the Calgary Public Library Foundation, which will provide support for the challenges that lie ahead for our community and serve the evolving needs of Calgarians when the Library reopens.

We're doing more with your support

Stronger Together

“Growing up, I had no idea just how little money we had because every single week I had brand new books to read. Twenty-ish years later, the Calgary Public Library is still a place for new books every week, but it is also a physical space where I feel curious, connected, and safe. Especially these days, those feelings are precious.”

Library Donor