Toronto Public Library Ends Late Fines for All
Today, Mayor John Tory announced that Toronto Public Library (TPL) is eliminating late fines for everyone, removing a barrier to access and making the library more welcoming to all Torontonians.
Fines can be a significant expense for those from low-income areas. When customers have fines, they are less likely to use the library and take advantage of the wide variety of materials and services, including free wifi, quiet study and workspace, programs for all ages and opportunities for civic engagement and participation. Today’s announcement builds on the elimination of children’s fines that went into effect last year.
Fines were originally introduced to encourage customers to return materials on time, but increasingly have been found by libraries across North America to be ineffective in encouraging the return of library materials as intended, and are actually a barrier to the use of all library services. Multiple studies show that there is no evidence that late fines are an incentive to return materials on time. In fact, libraries who have eliminated late fines report the opposite.
Library customers will still be responsible for returning materials, and those who do not will still need to pay the replacement cost for any materials lost, damaged or not returned.
As part of TPL’s COVID-19 pandemic response, TPL has not charged late fines to any cardholder since March 2020. TPL will continue to not charge late fines and will permanently transition to a fine-free model starting on June 1, 2022. Under this model, TPL will implement strategies to encourage the return of library materials, such as increased due date notices and shortening the timeframe for when an item is considered lost.
Toronto City Council approved the elimination of late fines as part of the City's 2022 budget, which includes TPL’s 2022 operating budget. The Toronto Public Library Foundation also generously helped fund fines elimination.
With this announcement, TPL joins hundreds of library systems across North America in the growing movement to eliminate late fines.
- TPL is eliminating late fines for everyone. Children’s late fines were already eliminated last year.
- Library customers will still be responsible for returning materials on time, and those who do not will still need to pay the replacement cost for any materials lost, damaged or not returned. TPL will continue to encourage the timely return of materials, including sending multiple due date notifications.
- Multiple studies show that there is no evidence that charging late fines is a successful way to have people return items on time. In fact, libraries who have eliminated fines report the opposite.
- Approximately 57,000 TPL cardholders will have their account cleared of fines.
- Fines account for less than 1.2 % of TPL’s annual operating budget. Given the increasing popularity of digital materials, which don’t incur late fines, and more online tools to help people manage their borrowing (e.g. email due date reminders, online account management), fines continue to be a declining source of revenue.
- TPL has not charged fines on any materials since the beginning of the pandemic. This new policy will make this change permanent.
For more information, visit tpl.ca/finefree.
"Now more than ever, we need to do everything we can to help connect Torontonians to the information and resources they need – for work, for school, for lifelong learning, and for civic engagement. We want to encourage people to use the 100 Toronto Public Library branches across the city. Removing late fines for everyone – as other library systems across North America have done - eliminates a significant barrier to equitable access to our public libraries. This is the right thing to do, right now to help people across our city and I'm glad we were able to support this change in the City of Toronto's 2022 budget."
- Mayor John Tory
“I couldn’t be happier that Toronto Public Library is permanently eliminating fines for adults and teens. We know fines are a barrier to the use of all library services including free programs, study space, computer and wifi access. I can’t wait to welcome more people to the library as a result of this important change.”
- Sue Graham-Nutter, Chair, Toronto Public Library Board
“Now more than ever, we need to remove barriers and connect people to the information and resources they need. Eliminating fines will have a profound impact on our ability to do this, and I’m so grateful to the City of Toronto and Toronto Public Library Foundation for making this change possible.”
- Vickery Bowles, City Librarian, Toronto Public Library
“Our goal as a Foundation is simple – to support the incredible work TPL does to ensure all Torontonians have equitable access to the library’s vital resources. We are proud that the Toronto Public Library Foundation played a part in bringing together our generous donors, in collaboration with the City of Toronto, to help TPL eliminate all fines.”
- Anne Maggisano, Chair, Toronto Public Library Foundation Board
About Toronto Public Library
Toronto Public Library is the world's busiest urban public library system, with more than 46 million annual visits to our branches and online. We empower Torontonians to thrive in the digital age and knowledge economy through easy access to technology, lifelong learning, and diverse cultural and leisure experiences, where, when and how our customers need us.