Toronto library reportedly waives late fees for kids in bid to be more ‘free and equitable’

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.

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.

Many social media users disagree with the mayor, implying that pandering may be in play. Here is a sampling:

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Robert Jonathan

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