Hepburn Shire Council has joined a growing number of public libraries around the world by removing library fines for overdue returns.

Mayor, Cr Lesley Hewitt, herself a regular library user, said fining people for not bringing items back to the library in time only discourages people from using the library. “Public libraries like ours are about encouraging as many people as possible to use their range of services and access to valuable information,” said Cr Hewitt. “We know sometimes life is busy and it is easy to overlook simple things like returning a few books. Fining people for this mean they are less likely to keep engaging with their library and that is not the outcome we want.”

The experience of other libraries which have tried this approach shows that users are more likely to return overdue items if fines are not waiting. From Monday 18 October, Hepburn Libraries will no longer impose fees for late returns. Instead members borrowing privileges will be limited until items are returned. Lost or damaged books will still have to be paid for, as is the case now.

CEO, Bradley Thomas said ending fines brings the Shire’s libraries into line with other libraries in the Central Highlands library network like those in the Shires of Ararat, North Grampians and South Grampians. “We are delighted to be scrapping fines for overdue items and helping our thousands of members make the most of their local libraries,” said Mr Thomas.

For people with existing fines, the library will have an amnesty. Fines can be erased by a donation of non-perishable food which will then be distributed to the food banks across the Shire. Council ran a similar program called the ‘Forgiving Tree’ in 2019 and 2020 which resulted in more than $3,000 worth of food being donated each year for people in need.