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LATE fees for the slow return of library books have been scrapped in a bid to encourage more people to use the service.

The move has been introduced by Gwynedd Council amid fears that the potential for fines could be putting people off.

The move was sparked by a decision taken during the pandemic to automatically extend return dates, meaning that books could never be “late.”

But viewing the initial short term move as a success, the authority has decided to permanently scrap charges for books that are returned late to the county’s libraries.

Cllr Gareth Thomas, Gwynedd Council’s portfolio holder for Libraries, said: “Our aim is to encourage the people of Gwynedd to make the most of all the book collections we have, including the health and self-help collections available in our libraries.

“Throughout the Covid period, we have stopped charging fees for late returns. We know that people have struggled over the last year, and many people have missed out on being able to visit their local library during the lockdown periods.

“The reality is that many people see fines as a barrier to be able to make the most of libraries. We hope that getting rid of fines altogether is a way to encourage more people to use their library without fear of penalties if they return their books a few days late.”

Fines on books for children and young people under the age of 18 ended in Gwynedd a number of years ago, after they were seen to be a barrier to young people and families accessing the library.

But with the same principle now applying to books returned late by adults, it will mirror moves already in place in the Republic of Ireland and at least 15 British Library Authorities, although Gwynedd will be among the few in Wales to have done so thus far.

The move will see any existing fines on Gwynedd library users’ accounts being removed, giving everyone a clean slate to visit their library when existing automatic renewal arrangements are over, and the fixed loan period restored.

Despite this, the service is still urging the public to assist by returning their books within a reasonable time.

Although there will be no fines under the new scheme, users will be expected to return books within 12 weeks of the return date before receiving a note asking them to return or pay for their book.

A Gwynedd Council spokesperson said: “Any existing fines on Gwynedd library users’ accounts will be removed when automatic renewal arrangements which were introduced early in the pandemic are over, and the fixed loan period restored.

“Users will still be expected to return books, and details on charges for any unreturned items will be introduced when our existing automatic renewal arrangements end later this year.”

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