The Library Services team at the Geoffrey R. Weller Library has come up with a novel idea to encourage students to take advantage of the library's wealth of resources.
In an effort to continually improve the student experience and remove barriers to learning, the Library Services team at the Geoffrey R. Weller Library has implemented a change that’s sure to be a bestseller – no more overdue fines on books and resources from the library’s general collection.
“We’re always looking for ways to make the library more accessible, inclusive and equitable to all students,” says Access Services Librarian Annelise Dowd. “This is a small, but tangible way to put our policies into action and have a direct, positive impact on students.”
Recognizing a fear of fines could be holding students back from enjoying the thousands of books, DVDs and CDs just waiting to be checked out from stacks, Dowd and Circulation Services Supervisor Vaunda Dumont were already reviewing the library’s fines policy when COVID-19 hit. This fall’s good news announcement formalizes a practice that began during the pandemic.
“It was a financially difficult time for a lot of our students. Many student jobs are in-person jobs and those positions just disappeared,” Dowd notes. “We made the decision in March 2020 to start waiving fines as a means to support our students.”
In addition to easing the financial burden, Dowd says the hope was to help reduce student stress levels, as well. The shift to remote learning meant many students returned to their home communities suddenly, often before they were able to return their library books.
“It was an anxious time and on top everything else that was going on, we didn’t want them to worry about library fines,” says Dowd, who received a University Excellence in Professional Practice, Mentorship or Stewardship Award during this spring’s Convocation ceremonies, in part for their leadership at the library during the pandemic.
They say students were relieved and appreciative of the reprieve and evidence at UNBC and other institutions shows no correlation between fine reductions and the book loss rate. “It might mean it takes a little longer to get our books back, but they’re returned,” says Dowd. “And I would much rather have a book in someone’s hands than sitting on our shelves.”
This new process will allow students to keep the books for 30 days beyond the due date with no overdue fines, as long as another patron hasn’t recalled it. At that point it will be marked as lost and billed in the library’s system, so students would need to bring the book back or contact Library Services staff for further options.
With the resumption of in-person classes this fall, it’s hoped the fines free policy on items in the general collection will encourage students to take advantage of the library’s numerous resources, including research help, detailed subject guides, and bookable study spaces.
“We’re continually reviewing our policies to ensure the library is accessible to all students – not only in terms of fines, but things like longer loan periods and improving access for Indigenous students,” says Dowd. “We want to hear what would make the library a better experience for students, so we can base our policy decisions directly on their input. Feedback is excellent.”