05. December 2014 · Comments Off on New Zealand: a case study in library fees · Categories: Uncategorized

Jennifer Dewey’s article, The Price of Patronage found in the November/December 2014 edition of American Libraries Magazine is well worth taking a look at. The piece is a case study of what happened in New Zealand when fees were used to increase library revenue.

Dewey cites two cities, Wellington and Hamilton, as examples. Dewey moved to New Zealand in 2012 and found these practices to be a culture shock. In Wellington charges for borrowing videos were $4NZ ($3.31 US) for each video, $1NZ ($0.83 US) per CD rental, and $5NZ ($4.13 US) for a bestseller. Wellington also charges for internet use.

Another city, Hamilton, “raised fees in July 2012 for overdue materials, placing holds, and membership for non-Hamilton residents.”  The policy was anticipated to raise $205,000 for the city. However, revenue decreased by $45,000. Foot traffic saw an 8% decline.

One set of advantages to this was that wait-lists for materials were shorter and materials were found to be in better physical condition.

On the other hand Dewey points out that this means that the materials were not circulating (i,e, they were shelf sitters) and were not being used by the community.

What’s the lesson to be learned here?

Dewey puts it best. “Libraries worldwide require funding solutions, but increasing fees is not viable. Libraries need users as much as users need libraries. Let’s not give people reason to turn away.”

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