Peterborough libraries offer amnesty on fines to recover 22,000 missing books

Service says the move is aimed at encourage the return of borrowers who stopped using the library during the Covid pandemic

Libraries in Peterborough are holding a fine amnesty to try to recover 22,000 missing books.

The service, which runs 10 libraries across the area, will not fine anyone for returning overdue books and will clear accounts of debt.

Announcing the amnesty, Peterborough Libraries said it was running the amnesty both to recover the books, and so that users would be encouraged to return to the libraries.

Library services manager Firzana Shaheen said that “following the pandemic, the number of library users has reduced significantly”.

This was, she said, “in part due to people being worried about owing the library service money”.

“We all know how difficult it was during this time and many people will have forgotten they even had books on loan from us,” Shaheen added. “In the current climate, we know how much people are struggling and don’t want to add to that pressure but we do want our customers coming back to see us.”

“We don’t want overdue fines to stand in the way of people accessing all that we have to offer,” she added.

Library users who have lost books will also be able to have their fines waived and their accounts reset. The amnesty will run until mid-November.

Many libraries are keen to get people back through the doors, and are also taking extra measures to make sure they are seen as a welcoming space during the cost of living crisis.

The Guardian found that around half of libraries in England and Wales no longer charge daily fines for overdue books borrowed by adults, while a majority of libraries do not charge children late fees.

Beyond amnesties, councils are still charging adults if they lose books or damage them beyond use. However, some libraries do have discretionary measures that take into account people’s circumstances, as well as the age of the book and the reason any damage might have occurred.

Libraries are also preparing to set themselves up as “warm banks” or “warm spaces”, offering a space where people can spend time this winter as the price of electricity goes up and the cost of living crisis bites.

Among the libraries being designated warm spaces are 65 that are operated by not-for-profit charitable social enterprise GLL. Free tea, coffee and biscuits are also being donated to the libraries by food service company Brakes. The spaces are open to members and non-members of the libraries, and staff are being trained to offer “signposting” advice on relevant utility and cost-of-living grants.

Diana Edmonds, GLL’s director of libraries, said: “We know that this winter many people will struggle to be able heat their homes and we want to help. Libraries are ideally suited to serve as Warm Spaces because they are at the heart of the community. They are welcoming environments, easily accessible, often being in town centre locations and already offer a wide range of free services and facilities.”

Contributor

Sarah Shaffi

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