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Fee-free trial on cards for borrowers

The Greytown Town Hall and library. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

ELISA VORSTER
[email protected]

All Wairarapa libraries could see a fee-free trial period over the next six months, with some councillors hoping the move will become permanent.

The recommendation was made at the Wairarapa Library Services committee meeting after a decision earlier in the month from Carterton District Council to place an amnesty on all overdue book fines until Christmas 2018.

Carterton councillors were unanimous in their decision and were hoping to move forward with a permanent free library from January 2019, which would see the removal of rental charges on adult fiction and remove all overdue charges.

However, as the library is part of Wairarapa Library Services which includes the libraries at Greytown, Featherston and Martinborough, the council had to wait to hear how South Wairarapa District Council voted at its meeting the following week.

SWDC didn’t quite take the same tact and instead decided to go out for public consultation on the matter during its annual plan process next year.

Library services manager Anne Jackson encouraged committee members to recommend to both councils to continue with the amnesty on overdue fines until a final decision is made.

“It’s going down really well as you can imagine,” Jackson said.

She said books thought to be lost forever were being returned without the fear of excessive overdue fines.

“We’ve had two books returned and one of them the lady said ‘I hadn’t dared take it back because I’ve had it for so long’.”

Jackson had encountered a family whose children couldn’t borrow books because they couldn’t afford to pay their overdue fines and knew of elderly members in the community who couldn’t afford to loan books at 50 cents each.

Carterton councillor and library services committee chairwoman Ruth Carter was in favour of a free library service, saying it levelled the playing field for all the community.

“It’s saying books are for everyone – let’s read,” she said.

Carterton councillor and committee member Tracey O’Callaghan agreed, saying for some people there is the perception that the library is too expensive.

“It’s for people who can’t afford any other form of entertainment,” she said.

The move would be similar to Masterton District Library, which runs separately to the other Wairarapa libraries, and waived its overdue fees on children’s books in July 2017.

The committee agreed the recommendation to councils would now be to extend the amnesty to July 1, treating it as a trial period, so if residents are against the move it can easily revert to charging fines again.

It would also give both councils a chance to see the effect the loss of revenue from removing charges and fees would have on the libraries.

Both councils will discuss the new recommendation when council meetings restart in February.

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