The Toronto, Ont., public library is eliminating late fees for children in a nod toward diversity and inclusion.
Waiving the fees for overdue books and DVDs for about 33,000 kids age 12 and under this year will cost the city approximately $600,000, according to local Toronto news outlet CP24, which is $475,000 when converted to U.S. dollars. Private donations are covering about 50 percent of the shortfall, while taxpayers are apparently picking up the other half. Additional fundraising is planned.
Officials anticipate dropping late fees for teens and adults possibly by next year (at an additional cost of about $1 million) in what is touted as the world’s busiest urban public library system, although one that is not fully operational owing to the pandemic.
Library customers will still be on the hook for the replacement costs of lost, damaged, or never-returned materials, although the enforcement mechanism seems undefined.
“I believe strongly in TPL’s mandate to be free and equitable — that’s especially important in a city as diverse as ours, with many newcomers and people of diverse socio-economic backgrounds. Fines are a barrier to the use of all library services including free children’s activities, homework help, computer and Wi-Fi access,” explained board chair Sue Graham-Nutter, the Toronto Star reported.
According to a statement released by the library, “Late fines have a disproportionate impact on racialized and low-income communities in Toronto. Five percent of children from these communities have blocked TPL library cards because of overdue fines compared to one percent of children from other areas.”
“Overdue fines were originally introduced to encourage customers to return materials on time, but increasingly have been found to be ineffective in encouraging the return of library materials as intended, and are actually a barrier to the use of all library services,” the statement continued.
The fines in question reportedly start at 10 cents per day and max out at $4.
“The push to remove library fees comes from the powerful American Library Association (ALA), the world’s largest library organization. During a 2019 midwinter meeting, the ALA adopted a resolution that recognized that monetary fines are a form of social inequity,” the Daily Wire reported about the organization that has apparently gone woke. Several U.S. cities have already eliminated library fines and wiped the slate clean on pending penalties.
Parenthetically, the politically correct Toronto Public Library is currently conducting a reassessment of six Dr. Seuss books “to determine whether there are racial and cultural representation concerns.” The New York Public Library appears to be taking an opposite approach.
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) March 4, 2021
Circling back to the fine-free policy, Toronto’s head librarian Vickery Bowles described it as a “win-win,” adding that “When fines are eliminated people who haven’t been coming to library start coming to the library again and materials that have been long overdue ate returned again,” CP24 reported.
The alternative view is that this decision denies access to books for kids from all backgrounds and walks of life who are patiently waiting for needed materials to be returned to the shelves.
John Tory, Toronto’s mayor and former leader of the Ontario “progressive-conservatives,” is on board, however: “By eliminating children’s overdue fines, we are removing barriers that were once impeding access to a wide variety of services and support offered at our city’s libraries,” he said. He reaffirmed those sentiments on Twitter.
The elimination of children's fines at @TorontoLibrary will remove the financial barrier that has kept many Torontonians from enjoying all that our libraries have to offer.
I hope that children and families will feel more compelled to connect with our libraries. pic.twitter.com/oPLB06dIqP
— John Tory (@JohnTory) March 2, 2021
Many social media users disagree with the mayor, implying that pandering may be in play. Here is a sampling:
If they can’t afford the fine, return the damn book on time. It’s not that hard.
Getting books back to the library in time is a great way to teach them responsibility. You’ve just negated that to score cheap political points.
— The Brazen Voice (@TheBrazenVoice) March 2, 2021
Parents and teachers can’t discipline kids. They don’t keep score in sports and now they won’t have any consequences for stealing. What a time to be alive!!! Forever happy I grew up in the 80’s
— Jay 🤘 (@JayGrizz77) March 2, 2021
Aren’t fines a consequence for a late return and not following the rules? Doesn’t it just show kids responsibility? Has any kid not gone to the library because of late fines? Are you just trolling your constituents at this point?! 😂
— frankiepeppers (@FrancophoneTank) March 2, 2021
I support this, as kids don’t get to choose their parents, & shouldn’t be punished for it, but saying that “racialized” communities are impacted more by fines, while distinguishing income as a factor, implies that POC don’t pay their children’s library fines. Racist much??
— tanya (@mamma_tanya) March 2, 2021
Why would anyone return the book then? The return deadline used to encourage me to read faster.
— David Ho (@DavidHo40528505) March 3, 2021
Glad the mayor is tackling the big issues facing the city…..
— InnoFran (@InnoFran) March 3, 2021
And this is how you teach kids not to be responsible!! Another leftist socialist liberal loser policy that will end costing taxpayers!!! Will John Tory personally cover the cost of the lost books?
— sb (@sxb1000) March 2, 2021
What financial barriers? If you borrow something you should return it on time, a good lesson for life. Not teaching children basic responsibilities and life skills is poor parenting.eliminating tubes for irresponsible behaviour is ridiculous.
— bubka6 (@bubka6) March 3, 2021
Is it a financial barrier? It seems like an irresponsibility issue and allowing children to get away without repercussions is renforcing a message that the parents have already taught them and you are now proving true, Do what you want it’s ok It’s no big deal.
— “Shirt” (@GilMora57199593) March 4, 2021
Or they could just return their books when they’re due.
— Dooley (@hi_andy_dooley) March 4, 2021
This vastly overestimates human ethics. With no disincentive to return books, many people will not. So just give away all your books and call it even.
— StanTheMan (@Unifyer4life) March 4, 2021
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