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COMMENT: Abolishing library fines is a sensible initiative

Monday, 7th January, 2019 7:59am
COMMENT: Abolishing library fines  is a sensible initiative

A library is an invaluable local resource. PHOTO: BITSTOCK

COMMENT: Abolishing library fines  is a sensible initiative

A library is an invaluable local resource. PHOTO: BITSTOCK

I MUST admit to feeling a sense of relief when it was announced last week that fines for late returns had been abolished at our libraries.

This is not just a one-off amnesty for past offenders: from now on, library members will not be asked to pay fines when returning overdue items and all existing fines will be cancelled.

As far as I’m aware, there are no unreturned library books lying around my house. That said, there are a few fine notices gathering dust in my hall table drawer relating to previous transgressions by a certain member of my family (you know who you are!).

Forgetting or neglecting to return a library book is hardly the crime of the century. However, it has become a major impediment to using such a valuable local resource. 

There’s the embarrassment factor, naturally, accompanied by the annoyance of having to cough up your hard-earned cash for what is supposed to be a free service. 

As time marches on, you develop a sense of dread about that lost library book, imagining that the fines accrued must by now amount to a hefty sum. 

The result? You consider entering into some sort of witness protection programme or – more likely – you simply stop borrowing books from your local library.

I’m lucky enough to live in a town that’s home to one of the country’s finest libraries. A former church, it is now a state-of-the-art facility offering a multitude of resources. You can use their computers and printers, read all the daily newspapers and, of course, borrow from an endless selection of books and DVDs.

In today’s manic world, it provides a quiet space; a place where you can get away from it all and browse the well-stocked shelves at your leisure. We could only have dreamed of having a library like this one when we were kids. And yet, this fine, modern amenity seems to be underused by the public.

The internet is partly to blame. We used to go to the library when researching a school project but these days it’s all done via a search engine on our laptop or smartphone. Our dependency on gadgets often borders on addiction and our kids are growing up in a world where losing yourself in a good book is no longer the default pre-bedtime activity.

Clearly, we are all the poorer for it. We see examples of weak literacy skills on our social media news feeds all the time. Even text messages sent by ‘educated’ people are peppered with bad grammar and spelling mistakes as language is dumbed down.

Any initiative that encourages us to read more is to be welcomed. In this regard, the removal of library fines is a small but practical step in the right direction.

 

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