News and Commentary

Toronto Public Library Eliminates Late Fees To Combat Racial Inequity

Waiving late fines will cost the library $600,000.

   DailyWire.com
TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA - 2015/10/25: Vintage architecture at Toronto Public Library, Bloor Gladstone branch. Toronto Public Library is the largest public library system in Canada, and the world's busiest urban library system.
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Toronto Public Library announced that it is eliminating fines for children in hopes of combating inequity.

On Tuesday, the Toronto Public Library (TPL) announced that it will waive late fees for the 33,000 children’s accounts that have overdue books. According to a local Toronto news outlet, waiving the fees will cost the library $600,000.

Toronto Mayor John Tory advocated for the policy on Twitter and said that removing children’s fines “will remove the financial barrier that has kept many Torontonians from enjoying all that our libraries have to offer.”

In a separate statement, the TPL claimed that “late fines have a disproportionate impact on racialized and low-income communities in Toronto.” The same statement estimated that 5 percent of children from low-income communities have blocked library cards because of overdue fines compared to one percent of children from wealthier families.

Late fees have often been used as an incentive to get library materials returned in a timely manner. Even without the incentive, the Mayor claims that the library does not expect wait times for in-demand materials to increase “significantly.”

Library customers will still be expected to return materials without the fine. The mayor claims that “those who do not [return books] will still need to pay the replacement cost for any materials lost, damaged, or not returned.”

The elimination of children’s fees is part of a larger plan to phase out library fees altogether. By 2022 and with the help of a “budget enhancement” request to the city, the TPL aims to phase out fines for teens and adults as well. According to local media, it will cost the library $1.4 million to extend the fee elimination to teens and adults. The TPL is calling on donors, alongside the city budget, to help aid it in covering these costs.

Similar fee eliminations have been made in the United States. According to The Atlantic, by late 2018, the public library systems in San Francisco, Nashville, Salt Lake City, Baltimore, St. Paul, and Columbus, Ohio, had all eliminated overdue fines. Many wiped the existing outstanding late fines for patrons as well.

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.

In recent years, the ALA has moved radically to the political Left and has called for the destruction of neutrality in the library system.

In 2020, the ALA released material instructing employees to embrace “critical librarianship,” which asks libraries and librarians to analyze how they “consciously and unconsciously support systems of oppression.”

Under the auspices of “critical librarianship,” the ALA has attacked the “gender binary” as an outdated, oppressive concept. The organization promotes “drag queen story hours” across the nation and calls for maintaining “queer and trans of color archives” and “naming and calling out microaggressions.”

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