Min. Hargey said: “Libraries are a crucial resource at the heart of our communities. They serve as a place for people to access a wide range of services including books, newspapers, online resources, computers, printers, audio materials and study space. They also provide a safe place for people who live alone, feel isolated or marginalised and they are a focal point for many community based activities. As we continue to live with Covid, it is important that our local libraries are open for everyone to use and that there are no access barriers.”
“That is why,” she added, “I am delighted that Libraries NI has reviewed its policy on overdue actions with the result that charges will be removed.
“Fines, particularly where they accumulate over time, are more likely to impact vulnerable people, including those on lower incomes. This positive move paves the way for customers who have been anxious about overdue fines to return to libraries and avail of the many services they provide.”
Jim O’Hagan, Libraries NI Chief Executive said: “The removal of overdue fines is an initiative that has seen positive results for many library services within the UK, the Republic of Ireland and indeed the rest of the world. We are delighted to be introducing this for our customers, providing what we hope will be an opportunity for many to reconnect with libraries. Our focus is on offering a free service to all members of the community without barriers to participation and it is encouraging to see the usage of libraries increase each week as we reintroduce face to face programming.
“I would like to remind everyone that all library books borrowed throughout the pandemic, when restrictions applied, were automatically renewed so did not incur any charges during this time. As part of returning to a more normal way of life in wider society, we are encouraging our customers to come back into libraries and for anyone who still has library books at home, to please return them for someone else to enjoy, safe in the knowledge there will be no overdue fines attached to their account.”
As of close of business on Monday 11 October 2021, 87,412 items are registered on Libraries NI’s system as being overdue. All of the associated charges for these will be wiped from the system.