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Library charges

There has been a fuss in NZ today over a local council bringing in charges of 50 cents for any adult books to be taken out.  Our library charges for internet use ($2.00 per quarter hour) and $3 for DVDs and videos, $1 a week for overdues (after they are already a week overdue), and something for jigsaws.  We are having a book sale at the moment.  I think there is an understanding the library will pay 10% of its way.

When I lived in Greymouth their library charged for popular fiction which meant that I didn't read popular fiction and learnt to enjoy more literary fiction and non-fiction.  Charges were brought in in some other library for books less than two years old and usage overall went down.  Our library said our council is conservative and not particularly generous but at least so far they haven't suggested taking anything away.  A right-wing coalition partner of our (already right-wing) parliament wants councils to stick to their core business, but of course this begs the question of what is core business.  

The particular council bringing in these charges is not, in my opinion, particularly interested in culture.  It is quite a large city but doesn't have a museum (was to get one and the council changed and wiped it) and I found it quite hard to find information on its quite considerable history when we were on holiday there.  The information office didn't know where I might find books and booklets on the area (apart from at the library).

What's the situation in Britain?  I know you had free internet - at Worksop in Yorkshire I could go on for hours since no one else was there wanting it.  I don't recall paying for any books at Sheffield library, though I was only allowed two out at a time, being a visitor without a real address.   Are there calls to bring in more charges for these cultural things?  One advocate for people paying did say, fairly reasonably, that when libraries were first set they were paid for by wealthy philanthropists and there was no internet.  GreyPower (do you have Greypower - advocate group for people over 50, read over 80 really) is up in arms about these charges as older people do read a lot, but they get up in arms at rate rises too.  

Naturally as someone who works in a library and whose first thought in coming to a new area is 'Where's the library?' I am not keen on anything that might impact on their usage.  

This has at least made the national news media, so people do take it seriously.

Cheers, Caro.


I am a great believer in free local public libraries and I am shocked to hear that there are plans afoot in a certain local council in NZ to charge for borrowing books. A public library should always be free and to start charging will only discourage people I feel and in the long term even have a negative effect on the up and coming generation.

At the moment I am in the fortunate position of being on the borders of two counties here in the UK so have access to two counties' worth of books and I find it very rewarding. I believe that there is now a newish scheme whereby you can borrow anywhere and return anywhere but I don't know the exact details.

We can borrow, free of charge, up to six books at a time for three weeks. These can be renewed twice for a further three weeks provided they haven't been reserved. Cds, dvds, blue ray and magazines are for a week and there is a small charge for the cds, dvds and blue ray.

I hope this is helpful to you.


VillageDuckpond wrote:

I am a great believer in free local public libraries.....

We can borrow, free of charge, up to six books at a time for three weeks etc.

Agreed. I always think free access to books is a tangible asset for our rates. In principle our councils are beginning to realise that the essentials are 'roads, rubbish (as in removal) and rats (health of the people)'.

By my calculation that equals six books for a maximum of nine weeks. Our council has no restriction on the number for four weeks with one renewal of four weeks. So very similar.
This move by a council in the North Island is only a proposal and IMO will be quietly droped before the July 1st financial year deadline.
Green Jay

I think in the UK the system Sasha describes is the same everywhere. I don't think it is up to local councils to set these sort of tariffs, although they do slash overall library budgets and pull them down. There is a discussion on another thread about threats to libraries in general.

We do pay a small daily fine on overdue books and other items. I have asked in the past if this goes into the budget, as I'd be quite happy with that, especially for books, but it doesn't. Don't know if it is cancelled out by the supposed cost of collection - but the librarians and the computers are all there anyway.

They have now started to charge for internet use - here, at least.  The first half-hour is free, then it is something like £2 an hour.  

In Bristol they charged for ordering books from other libraries within the region, but here that facility is free of charge, which is great.  And my local Waitrose has a bin for returning library books!  Though the library is nearer to me than Waitrose, so I don;t use it.

PS - the free access is great (and very important, I think), but the stock in our local library is rubbish!   Sad

Our branch library stock is not great either. Lately I have been ordering my books on-line where the whole of the Borough stock can be accessed (except the prison) and I can choose which branch to collect from. This is a bonus to me on days when I'm working as I pass another branch on the way. I can also re-new on-line providing there are no reserves on the book. Overdue charges are 10p per book per day, which I think is fair and I can borrow 10 books for 4 weeks on my ticket. As my husband never uses his ticket I often use that too. So all in all I'm quite happy with the library service here.
Joe Mac

Here in small town Alberta, Canada, it costs nothing to read or use the computers in the library, but to borrow materials one must purchase a library membership, which costs about $20 per year.

The local library does not have a great collection, but the inter-library loan system is quite well developed, giving the cardholder access to several million titles, I think, province-wide. Shipping charges are covered by the provincial government, bless them, so it costs the local library nothing. People are catching on and thousands of items come and go via this system each year.

Fines for late books are I think 10 cents per day. As for books that never get returned, the board recently decided to turn accounts of over $100 over to a collection agency! A bit extreme, I thought, but apparently many library boards are doing it.
The Barbara Tuchman book 'A Distant Mirror' came to me via inter-library loan from a library in the south of the province, I think.

I would also like to add that for GBP 3 you can place an inter-county reservation for a book. The last time I did this it came from the British Library and if I had lost it I would have had to fork out £70!

At the moment I have an inter-county reservation for 'A Fortunate Life' and so far it has taken a couple of months ....perhaps just as well as I am ploughing my way through 'This Thing of Darkness' (750 pages in paperback) which I find very fascinating but pretty technical and descriptive.


Yes, the inter-library loan system is great - even though it costs a few pounds (and I think the amount does vary from library to library), it's such a great service, you can get hold of virtually anything you need for a fraction of the price it would cost either to buy books or travel to London to consult them in the BL or elsewhere.

Last time I went to the library, they charged for internet use but only a nominal amount, they charge for use of the photocopier and printer if you want to print off anything from the microfishe records - only about 10p a copy or something and they charge for audio books, DVD's, †and CD's but you can take up to 12 books free for 3 weeks but there is a charge if they are late coming back. †If you want to order something particular from another library then they charge if you are an adult but not for children.

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