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Calgary Public Library Goes Fine Free to Support Community and Provides Closure Update

Calgary Public Library Goes Fine Free to Support Community and Provides Closure Update

(Calgary, AB – May 13) Calgary Public Library locations remain closed due to COVID-19, but the Library is announcing new measures to support the broader community.

The Library is moving to a Fine Free model to help Calgarians during this challenging time and to permanently reduce barriers to service. The Library will become Fine Free as of July 1. Until then, no fines will accrue, and all existing fines will be forgiven. 

“I would like to applaud Calgary Public Library for taking this bold step to help Calgarians during a time when the cost of a library fine could determine if you can get the services and resources you need,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi. “Removing barriers and ensuring that all Calgarians, especially children, are not held back from benefiting from the Library is the right thing to do. But try to return your materials on time so other people can use them.”

In recent years, over 100 major libraries in North America have transitioned to a Fine Free model, representing a commitment to equitable and accessible service, while increasing users, circulation, and reducing lost materials. 

As the Library continues to see increases in digital circulation – to which fines do not apply as renewals and returns are automated – fine revenue only makes up 1.5% of total revenue and continues to trend downward. 

“Digital circulation is now more than a quarter of our total circulation, and it continues to grow year over year. For the Library, this is primarily a choice to support access and remove barriers, but it’s also a business choice to respond to a shifting world and reduce reliance on a revenue stream that is disappearing rapidly,” says Mark Asberg, CEO, Calgary Public Library. 

For those who wish to pay their fines forward or celebrate this milestone, the Calgary Public Library Foundation, with the support of a group of generous donors, will be matching individual donations up to $25,000 until May 31. Funds raised will be directed to the Resiliency Fund at the Calgary Public Library Foundation, which will provide support for the challenges that lie ahead for our community and serve the evolving needs of Calgarians when the Library reopens. For more information, or to donate, please visit

Since closing locations on March 16, the Library has increased online services and programs and developed new community supports. The Library is working with the City of Calgary and other community partners to provide computer access to children and families to support urgent needs and continued school success. More than 300 Chromebooks have been loaned to date through social agencies.

Calgarians have discovered a wealth of free online resources through the Library at Home campaign. This includes online courses, streaming services, and original content like the popular Storytime at Home series

Digital circulation for April was up 56% over last year and Calgarians took 169% more free online learning courses through the Library. The Library has also registered 5,255 new members since closure. To explore the Digital Library and register for your free Library membership, please visit

Update on Library Closures

Locations remain closed and all programs, events, and room bookings have been cancelled until August 31, 2020. Libraries are listed in Stage 2 of Alberta’s Relaunch Strategy and the Library is currently developing a reopening approach that could include limited access to locations in accordance with public health and safety guidelines and physical distancing practices. This includes Curbside Holds Pick-up, a contactless service that is about to be piloted. Details and instructions will be made available in the coming weeks.

During reduced Library service, please hold on to all Library materials as all book returns are closed. Due dates have been automatically extended and no fines will accrue. 

Visit our website for updates on the Library’s response to COVID-19.

Accessing the Library

The Library has launched the Library Hotline, a phone, chat, and email service to help direct patrons to a range of resources, troubleshoot technical issues, provide book recommendations, answer questions, and more. The Library Hotline is open Monday to Saturday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. The number is 403.260.2600. 

How to Support the Library

The Calgary Public Library Foundation empowers people to make a difference in their community. The Resiliency Fund was launched in response to COVID-19 to help the Library support our community and provide barrier-free access to its resources and services. A gift at any size makes a difference. If you can, please consider donating or learning more at   

Media Contact
Mary Kapusta
Director, Communications
Calgary Public Library

How Library Fines Impact Calgarians
  • Over 53,000 Calgary Public Library memberships are currently blocked as a result of incurring fines in excess of $10.
  • Among blocked cardholders, 27% are part of households with children aged 0 – 4 living at home and 23% are part of households with children aged 5 – 9 living at home (compared to 20% and 19% respectively for the city as a whole).
  • 40% of blocked cardholders identify as newcomers and 58% as members of visible minorities (compared to 31% and 40% respectively for the city as a whole).
  • Of youth cardholders across Calgary, 12% are currently blocked, representing nearly 19,000 children in our community who cannot check out books from the library.

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