LIBRARIES ACROSS Ireland are wiping out all existing late book fines in an attempt to bring readers back through their doors in 2019.
From New Year’s Day, library members will start with a clean slate as part of a new campaign introduced by Minister for Rural and Community Affairs Michael Ring.
The fining system for late books has also been changed.
Under the previous regime, overdue book charges were set at 5% for every day they were late back.
However, this small charge often resulted in significant fines for library members failing to return their borrowed books in time.
The new system will see members emailed with reminders to either return or renew any overdue borrowed items.
They will receive three notices after which membership cards will be blocked and further borrowing or renewing will be prohibited until the debt is resolved.
Library opening hours are also being extended under the new plans, which have been made possible by the introduction of more self-service machines that allow users to take out and return books with fewer staff members on site.
The government has set a target of having 190 of Ireland’s 330 libraries open from 8am to 10pm, 365 days a year - including on Christmas Day.
By 2022, 125 will operate with these extended hours, with 65 more set to follow.
The Government strategy – being spearheaded by Minister Ring – will include a promise to see 190 of the 330 branches being opened from 8am to 10pm, 365 days a year including on Christmas Day.
According to Ring, around 16% of the Irish population currently use libraries, which equates to around 845,000 people.
The government is hoping to double that to around 30% by 2022.