Now that the Thunder Bay Public Library (TBPL) has a brand new Strategic Plan and a mandate from the community to tackle issues such as racism, decolonization and homelessness, we will be making some further changes to the way we do things around here. Here are just a few examples of what you might see happening at TBPL over the next few months.
We are looking seriously at getting rid of fines. Yes, that’s right, we are planning to end a public library tradition that goes back decades. We believe that using the library should not be a punitive experience. We must trust that you will bring your items back on time. Research shows that the cost of collecting fines is greater than the revenue they generate. This revenue has been going down year over year due to several factors, so look for this positive change in the coming months.
There are no discernible differences in return rates at libraries that have abolished fines. Circulation tends to increase when fines are removed. Research also shows that fines are a barrier to use, particularly for those on low incomes, and can cause friction between library staff and patrons. Fines are reliant on bad behaviour – the late return of items – and are not a sustainable revenue stream. We will be looking for other ways to raise money and would love your ideas. Maybe you would like cafes in our two largest libraries? Please let us know.
We are also going to look at desks in the library. You are probably familiar with these large pieces of furniture that take up prime space in the library. We are going to remove these and replace them with staff touchdown points. Sitting is the new smoking and in the interests of staff well being we want them to be actively roving around the library rather than sitting passively behind a desk.
Smaller desks should also lead to an increase in use of self check out kiosks – we invested in this technology to improve your patron experience and not to reduce staff and we have kept that promise. We want our staff to focus on more high value work such as active roving and community outreach. There will always be a member of staff available to help you with your needs.
We are going to further and deepen the decolonization process by working with Fort William First Nation to return our libraries to their traditional lands. We believe that land acknowledgements are not enough and that we need to share power and resources with the Indigenous community. We are all treaty people and TBPL intends to honour its commitments under the Robinson Superior Treaty of 1850.
We will be embedding the Calls to Justice in the report on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) into our Reconciliation and Relationship Building Action Plan. We agree with the authors of the MMIWG that what has happened in the past, and continues to happen today, to the Indigenous community in Canada amounts to genocide. We will be playing our part in righting these historical wrongs and working towards making TBPL a culturally safe space for Indigenous people.
John Pateman — www.tbpl.ca. If you have a comment about today’s column, we would love to hear from you. Please comment below!