The registered charity, which runs 12 branches, a mobile library and a housebound service, on behalf of Bridgend County Borough Council, will be the first in Wales to eliminate the fines, following in the footsteps of some libraries in England and the Republic of Ireland.
The announcement was made at the official reopening of Pyle Library on Monday 11th March following a £100,000 redevelopment and refurbishment, attended by Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism.
The renovation, which was jointly funded by a Transformation Capital Grant from the Museums, Archives and Libraries Division of Welsh Government and Awen Cultural Trust, has seen Pyle Library become a larger, lighter, more flexible and functional space, for the whole community.
It is believed that the removal of fines will encourage more people to use Awen Libraries, allowing those who may be embarrassed about forgetting to return their books, or being unable to pay their fines, to rekindle their relationship with reading and learning.
Richard Hughes, Chief Executive of Awen Cultural Trust, said:
“We are committed to providing public libraries, which are warm, welcoming and accessible-for-all. We want to reach new audiences and encourage more families to come into our libraries and enjoy all the services they have to offer, by breaking down actual and perceived barriers within our branches.
“As we have removed many of the physical barriers into Pyle Library, including the large imposing front desk, it is fitting that we made the announcement about our new fine policy at its official reopening.
“Of course, no fine does not mean no responsibility and all other rules around book borrowing will still apply! We would just prefer our members to support their local library in other ways, by visiting, offering donations or volunteering.”
Councillor Richard Young, Cabinet Member for Communities at Bridgend County Borough Council, said:
“As our partnership with Awen is based on delivering wellbeing, inclusion and equality outcomes, we wholeheartedly support their progressive policy to abolish overdue fines which, by doing so, ensures that everyone in our communities has free access to reading and learning as a lifelong resource.”
Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Lord Elis-Thomas, said:
“I’m very pleased that we’ve been able to support this project which provides modern and flexible library facilities to the local community. By co-locating the library with the Life Centre, the local community are able to access fantastic and innovative services all in one place.
“The Welsh Government’s Transformation Fund helps public libraries, local museums and archive services transform their cultural offer for the public. Across Wales we have invested more than sixteen million pounds I n over 115 projects alongside considerable investment from other partners. This has revitalised many library services in Wales and created opportunities for other partnerships. I hope this newly refurbished library will encourage and create opportunities for people who are new to the library or have not been for a long time, to visit and access the services which are available.”
Awen Libraries is at the forefront of introducing new and innovative ideas to encourage people into their branches. A third season of ‘Live & Loud’, which sees live music, drama, puppetry and children’s theatre performed between the bookshelves, got underway in February, and is helping to change perceptions of libraries and engage new audiences.