Manawatū District Libraries goes fine free to help break down barriers

Manawatū District Libraries removed fines for children in 2020 and as of 1 July 2023, not just fines, but also hold fees are no longer charged for all users.

Fines Free Aotearoa is a strong movement with the goal of removing all fines in libraries across New Zealand. Removing fines increases the use and membership of libraries. When a user generates fines, often they stop coming as they don’t want to face the cost before being able to borrow again, being fines free creates a positive atmosphere and allows users some freedom with their borrowing. Of course if an item is damaged or lost, this cost still goes to the user.

Having to rely on revenue generation from fines has always been difficult for staff. Moving to a Fines Free operation means they can focus on encouraging a love of reading, social connection and lifelong learning opportunities, increasing access to all loanable items and community wellbeing. Having revenue generated through people attending programmes and events, printing and Makerspace services, increases customer satisfaction and team morale.

Manawatū District Libraries have been focussed on breaking down barriers to use library services for years. Since 2015 they have been transitioning into a modern library service, and the team have been exploring ways to increase usership. They’ve been providing people with access to resources, free training, technology, community events, social experiences and of course, books.

The team have a number of services designed to be more inclusive. The Homelink service is in place to deliver items to those physically unable to come into the library. Linked closely with rest homes and retirement villages in the district and several individuals in their private homes, Homelink members can have access to free to loan items delivered to their door. We have a good volunteer base to help with these deliveries, but are always on the lookout for more to continue to increase this service.

Satellite libraries in Āpiti, Rongotea, Pohangina, Himatangi, Tangimoana and Kimbolton allow rural users additional opportunity to borrow items without having to come into town. Items are rotated to ensure the collections change regularly at these libraries.

Local schools started dropping away from library visits, citing transport and supervision issues, so Manawatū District Libraries have been taking their STEAM programmes into schools to support learning since 2017.

Since the changes to the digital curriculum, the library has been lending kits to schools to help them access equipment that they normally wouldn’t be able to access. They also run ‘teach the teacher’ sessions, so the teachers walk away with the knowledge and confidence to be able to run new tech sessions with their students.

Through partnerships in the community Manawatū District Libraries is helping the community freely access services like the JP service, healthy heart checks, banking support (especially seeing some branches have reduced hours), tenancy support and more.

Community wellbeing, social connection and lifelong learning opportunities are a mix of free and paid programmes. These range from knitting groups, school holiday programmes, craft sessions (extreme like Macrame and clay, to tissue box monsters), book clubs, murder mysteries, family fun days, Matariki, Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori, author sessions, etc.

In the Community Hub Library that is currently under construction and due for completion mid-2024, the finished facility will have a Makerspace with a focus on inspiration and innovation. Access to machines like CNC Machine, Laser Cutter, 3D printers, Sewing Machine and Overlocker, Vinyl Cutter and Heat Press, Resin Printer, Tools, and more means the community only has to pay for the materials used, giving more people access to these machines for hobbies, games, parts, small business developments, etc.

Libraries aren’t what they used to be, but much like they were in the past, they’re still a focal point for the whole community and its visitors. But now, they’re also a social meeting place, a learning space, where you go to find inspiration and innovation, connect to the wider world and share knowledge, experience and opinion.