Some Mauricie libraries, which have experienced a considerable drop in traffic during the pandemic, have decided to eliminate late fees in order to encourage people to return to their establishment.
In Shawinigan’s six municipal libraries, attendance fell by 66% in 2021 compared to 2019 and the number of subscriptions and the quantity of loans fell by 33%.
“Citizens believed that we were closed during the pandemic and not everyone was comfortable with contactless lending,” observed the head of the library division at the City of Shawinigan, Catherine Patry. .
For her part, Sylvie Brouillette, the coordinator of the Saint-Séverin library, about thirty kilometers northeast of Shawinigan, recalled that activities have been slowed down with the absence of students and the impossibility of hold events due to social distancing.
Before the pandemic, libraries were very popular places with the population, according to the director general of the Réseau BIBLIO du Centre-du-Québec, Lanaudière and Mauricie, France René. “Public libraries have transformed over the years to become open places where people can meet, exchange, educate, grow and entertain themselves.”
So there is a hill to climb. To do this, some municipalities in Mauricie have joined the international movement to abolish Fine Free Library fees, which aims to promote access to libraries and their cultural, artistic and educational collections.
The municipality of Saint-Séverin decided to participate in it last January, having already temporarily abolished late fees in June 2020.
“In 2021, we equipped ourselves with a book drop and the number of delays decreased, because people could come and bring their book at any time,” said Ms. Brouillette, adding that late fees could upset some people. . As the cumulative amount of late fees was negligible ($300 annually), Saint-Séverin decided to abolish them.
For its part, the City of Shawinigan has opted for a partial abolition of fees, by withdrawing them for 0-12 year olds. “Late fees were an economic barrier for low-income people. A family could gather with about fifty documents. This could represent a considerable sum in the event of a delay,” said Ms. Patry.
The City is considering whether fees will be abolished for ages 12 and older in 2022.
In Trois-Rivières, capital of Mauricie, late fees are still in effect. However, the City’s spokesperson, Guillaume Cholette-Janson, specified that, for nearly two years, the loan period has been extended from three to six weeks for all documents. This limits late fees for subscribers, he said. “This trend is currently being evaluated in Trois-Rivières,” he told us.
In total, 13 Mauricie municipalities have completely abolished late fees.
Popularity of eBooks
Digital book lending has been very popular in Shawinigan since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
Catherine Patry, the head of municipal libraries in this city, believes that this was one of the rare positive effects of the health crisis. “The number of loans of this type of document has increased fivefold,” she said.
This trend was also observed within the member libraries of the BIBLIO Network. “People use the digital book for its convenience, [soit] several books in a small mobile device, a mobile application allowing easy listening to a book on the go, mentioned France René, director general of the organization for Centre-du-Québec, Lanaudière and Mauricie. In addition, it makes it possible to virtually extend the opening hours of the library by allowing the insomniac to borrow a book in the middle of the night.
According to her, digital and print “coexist and complement each other while allowing the availability of content in demand by users”.