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Changes to fees and loan periods

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Starting Wednesday, January 24, 2018, the Ottawa Public Library (OPL) will be changing some of its fees and loan periods to make it easier for customers to use its collections and services.

The purpose of these changes is to improve service, circulation, and wait times. 

The main changes are as follows:

  • Overdue fees on regular Children’s items are being reduced from $0.25/day to $0.10/day. 
  • Overdue fees on regular Adult items are being reduced from $0.50/day to $0.40/day.
  • There will be unlimited renewals on regular items unless the item has been requested by another customer. Express and eBook renewals and loan periods stay the same.
  • Loan periods are being simplified and made consistent across all formats – loan periods for all regular items will be for 3 weeks (21 days).
  • Processing fees for lost or damaged regular items will be removed.
  • To help reduce wait times for items, a $1 fee will be charged if a hold or Interlibrary loan is not cancelled or picked up on time.
  • Express items that are lost or damaged will be subject to a rush processing fee of $20 plus the cost of the item to OPL.
  • To reflect the cost paid by Ottawa residents through their taxes, non-resident fees will increase from $50 to $80 for individuals, and from $120 to $160 for families/households.

Find out more at


Liked the new provision of unlimited renewals unless the item has been requested by another customer. From a writer's point of view, it's helpful to have some specific book(s) - used as useful reference(s) - until the completion of the book. One less headache for me to keep track of such books and/or keep borrowing these after each expiry period.

My forthcoming fiction "minimum Payment", out by mid to late Feb 2018 , didn't require such reference books. However, the fourth book - a non-fiction - requires some as references, and this new provision should be helpful.


Thank you for the feedback, chawraj.

The percentage in fee increase is too steep! For a long-time non-resident subscriber, I rely on both sides of the river for book supply. Gatineau/Ottawa should work together to harmonize collections available to all NCR residents at minimal cost. We acquired the SmartCard but there are too many limitations that it is not helpful. I live in Gatineau and work in downtown Ottawa - I visit both libraries every week to replenish my reading lists in both languages..

The SmartLibrary Card should resolve this -

Hi 1_Great_Book. Thank you for your feedback. The new fees reflect the average annual cost ($81) of Ottawa Public Library services to an Ottawa tax payer.

I can see 1_G_B's point and I'm surprised there isn't more harmony between Gatineau/Ottawa. It seems like a unique opportunity to encourage bilingualism and a bit of cultural exchange.
Other than that, I'm ecstatic to see these changes. Thanks for putting clients first. I especially love that "there will be unlimited renewals on regular items unless the item has been requested by another customer". It never made sense to me that a book that's been languishing on the shelf can't stay with me longer than 9 weeks if necessary - I usually end up checking it out a few days later once it's back in circulation anyway.
Plus the simplified loan periods is going to be really easy to keep track of! Sometimes it's hard to know if a movie is a new release, documentary, or something else entirely: do I get a week, three weeks, who knows? This will be easier to plan.
Even the 1$ expired hold fee makes sense - I've been guilty of this a few times and now I'll be more courteous to my fellow readers who have been patiently waiting for their new favorite to arrive.
Thanks so much. What a great holiday gift!

I have no problem with the fees, and I was always amazed at the huge number of items on hold for some patrons. Can they really read/listen/watch so many items at once? I hope the new expired-hold fee puts some reason and order into holds.
But I am deeply disappointed at the lack of Blu-rays, going on for years now at the OPL, unlike many other libraries. Because it is 2018 (when the new fees start), it is time for the library to provide some high-definition movies to the patrons. Please, oh please, 4K/3D is not necessary, but it is high time for some regular Blu-rays.

Thank you for your feedback regarding the new fees, smarjano. When it comes to Blu-rays, we have considered the possibility of starting a collection, but have not yet acted on it. One reason behind this is that almost every film is still for sale in the DVD format, a format which can be used by customers with either a Blu-Ray or DVD player. Another reason we haven't added a Blu-Ray collection is budget. We have considerable pressure on the existing collection for its popularity, and to properly maintain it requires good funding that we don't want to split in too many directions. The demand for Blu-Ray has never been sufficient in our view to take on this cost. We have, however, made the recent transition to a new delivery system for movies by subscribing to the Hoopla streaming service as there has been demand for this.
We review our policy on a regular basis and will certainly take your feedback under consideration.

Just wanted to say I love Hoopla. Surprised that some movies being rented on are on Hoopla! What a treat!

Thank you for the feedback, Dreamers_Touch

you can buy 4 dvd copies of a movie or series for the price of 1 blu-ray.

I have, in the past, been frustrated that a hold becomes available while I am out of town and unable to collect it. Adding a fee for something that is not my fault is annoying.

This has happened to me as well, so now I make good use of the pause and have most of my (many) holds on pause. When I see I am going to be away, I ensure none of my paused items are going to come available while I am away.

I agree with the fee. There is a cost involved in shipping the book to the pickup location, and people may be more diligent in managing their holds with the new fee. As noted above, it is very simple!

I for one am guilty of having a large number of books on hold (all on pause). However when I try to manage them I am finding I have to do one at a time. To change the expiry date of an item you can only do one at a time. I also wish the calendar was easier to use. Since I have a large number of items on hold I like to set my expiry or pause until dates WAY down the road. The calendar only allows you to click to get to a date. Wish I could change numerous items at the same time as well. Would make managing your holds easier.

Thank you for the feedback, Dreamers_Touch.

But whether someone picks up the hold or lets it go back into circulation it still costs the same to process. How does picking up your hold save money compared to letting it sit on the shelf?

Hi mejenkins, you can manage your holds by "pausing" them if you know you will be out of town or unable to collect them. Find out more here:

If you are going to be out of town you can defer your hold until it s more convenient to pick it up.


I work 12 hour shifts. 4 days on, 4 days off. Cannot tell you how many times a book is listed as available but not on the shelf for me to check out. Then it's on the shelf while I am on shift. There is no way for me to pick it up as the library is not open when I am home.

The library tells me to pause my request until I am free but that will entail me pausing everything I have on hold every 4 days?

I was under the impression that if I don't pick up the item it is returned to circulation quicker than if I picked it up and held it for 3 weeks. So what the library is doing is rather than a popular book being sent to the next person within a week, people will wait the week and then take the waiting book home where they will sit on it for 3 weeks in order to save the $1.

Explain the logic in this?

Doesn't unlimited renewal remove books from the shelves of local libraries, where the curious book-lover can pick them up to browse before lending? Many of the "always there" reference books have been removed and 'available' books replaced them. Hurtig's "Canadian Encyclopedia" is an example. Will forever renewable books sit on a home shelf or be actively used?

A very good point! I have occasionally found the nine-week maximum check-out length insufficient, but I would not like to see important items endlessly unavailable for browsing on the shelves. Sometimes we do not know what we would be intrerested in unless we see it on the shelf, therefore not all checked-out items can be put on hold.

I think Hurtig's Canadian Encyclopedia has gone out of print in hardcopy edition, and is now available online only, which is probably why the OPL removed it from the shelves. An out-of-date encyclopedia is next to useless.

Thanks for your feedback sat_a2z. You bring up a fair point. It is possible that some titles in our collection could be off the shelf longer than before. The trade off for this risk is whether it outweighs the benefit of customers being able to keep something for a longer period when there is no apparent demand. We believe that this benefit outweighs the identified risk. We will however monitor the effects of the policy change and ensure that our branches continue to have a good selection of material available.

The new $1 fine for each unclaimed hold item seems fair to me. A lot of work goes into finding, labeling and shelving the holds. I know that Calgary libraries likewise charge for holds that are not picked up.
It will be important to let people know about the new fine. Perhaps during the next 12 months whenever someone books an item online they should see a message "Please note that from January 24 1018 onward there will be a fine of $1 for every held item that is not picked up" and a link to "More information". The additional info would cover methods for pausing or cancelling holds.

Thank you for your feedback michaelobrecht. We are planning on getting the word out to customers in various ways during the next couple of months.

I can't tell you how impressed I am that the OPL has chosen to reduce fines and eliminate fees on lost or damaged items. This is a very progressive move, because those fines and fees disproportionately affect the people least able to afford them, and people like myself who struggle with ADHD or other neurological issues that impair memory and follow-through. I had more or less given up on borrowing hardcopy books and (especially) DVD's, because the inevitable fines were sometimes higher than the retail price of the item.

Please don't misunderstand, I know that it's my responsibility to get borrowed materials back to the library on time, regardless of ADHD, and I always do my best. Most of the time it's not a problem, but under the old fine and fee structure, it took only a couple of slip-ups a year to dig a very deep hole. The new structure maintains the incentive to return materials on time without unfairly penalizing people on low incomes and/or people with memory issues. Thank you!

We use the library card to teach our daughter responsibility, with her learning to keep track of her own borrowed books and getting them back on time, plus the fees coming out of her own money. 25 cents a day only just adds up in a way that she notices, so it'll have far less impact when a book can be 10 days overdue before it even hits $1. The new fines on holds should be good for adults becoming more responsible/courteous though.

No changes for museum passes? Would love to see a shorter borrowing time and a same-day call-ahead reservation system on those. Very cool that the library's started loaning musical instruments this year too - hoping to see the selection expand to school band-type instruments (trumpet, saxophone). Kudos to OPL for opening up more arts and culture experiences for everyone.

Does the $1 fee apply to reserved items that are waiting to be picked up but are then cancelled before the pickup date expires?

Hi jennab105. The hold must be cancelled or picked up before the expiration date included in your hold notification, or under your account online. If this is done, you will not have to pay the $1 fee. You can read more about this in the FAQ on the following page: (scroll down below the table).

Unfortunately, not all Library users have good values and a conscience and you are only encouraging such patrons to KEEP or BE CARELESS with regular items if there is no longer a penalty for their actions. If a person is so irresponsible that they do not pay fines, do not properly care for items, or lose items, their Library card should become inactive. You are only encouraging irresponsibility.

Unfortunately, not all Library users have good values and a conscience and you are only encouraging such patrons to KEEP or BE CARELESS with regular items if there is no longer a penalty for their actions. If a person is so irresponsible that they do not pay fines, do not properly care for items, or lose items, their Library card should become inactive. You are only encouraging irresponsibility.

They are just removing the processing fee, which I think is usually around $5 or $10 to process a lost or damaged item. People will still be charged the price of the item they lost. The wording is a little confusing but if someone loses an item they still have to pay for it, just not the additional processing fee.

Thank you for explaining. I can live comfortably with that change.

What is the Library's reason for changing this policy?

Hi logcabin. You will no longer have to pay fees for lost media bags, cases, or repairable damage. The fees for these are being removed because the cost to replace or repair these few items has minimal cost impact.

Processing fees have been removed for all regular lost items, to reduce barriers to service. Express items have a $20 rush processing fee, as demand for those is high and urgent.

I love this idea, being one who does use reference books for extended periods - I no longer have to physically bring that book back to the branch every 9 weeks only to put the book on hold and check it out again and continue my work with it. I do see one limitation to this new approach though: with unlimited renewals, how is OPL going to ensure accountability for lost/damaged/destroyed books? Perhaps rather than going the route of unlimited renewals, the 3 renewal rule should be extended to 6 renewals. This would give borrowers the ability to have a book for 3 months without having to bring it back for a *physical* verification that the book is in fact still in hand and in good condition.

I do like most of the changes. Although the "non-resident" fees are extreme.
Most people live in the valley and work in the city, a good change would be to allow these people to use their work address's and therefore enjoy the library amenities. The smaller libraries in the country have minimal open hours and the working residents can't get there.

Hi XenaGoddess. Thank you for the feedback. The new fees reflect the average annual cost ($81) of Ottawa Public Library services to an Ottawa tax payer.

Hi, folks. Some decent changes here. But I'm concerned about this one:
* "A $1 fee will be charged if a hold or Interlibrary loan is not cancelled or picked up on time."

I have some holds in my queue that are months old, sometimes more than a year. Some other items may be available within a few days. In other words, it's impossible to predict when an item on hold may be available. I've had month-long holds come in while I'm on vacation and not able to make it in within the one-week window (especially if there happens to be a stat holiday in there, further reducing my pickup window). Short of going in and putting 'pause' individually on all my holds when headed on vacation, this fee could be an unpleasant surprise to come home to.

I understand the need to eliminate people using the hold system and never picking up their materials, but this fine seems to be steep. Thanks.

Hi FamilyHolt. If you cancel your hold before the expiry date, you will not be charged the fee. You can cancel your holds:
- Online, when signed in to your account
- In person at any of the 33 branches or Bookmobile
- By calling Telecirc at 613-580-2535
Holds can be cancelled while the item is on the holds shelf, while the item is in transit, or if the hold is still pending.

The website states that this is to help Popular items get to the next customer. How does the fine help this in the least?
Before I would let the book sit on the shelf and it would go to the next person right away after the hold date has expired. Now I will make every effort to check it out and hold it (while reading it) until it's due 3 weeks from the pickup date. Now the popular item is being kept for 3 more weeks for every person who checks it out.

I also keep extensive hold lists, but time them for when I want them to come off Hold. I allow a few days for delivery at a time when I will be ready to read them. I do have to readust periodically, but the control this allows me over access at appropriate times, is well worth a little time. Otherwise, I can just pause them all to a much later time, and bring them forward as I take them off hold. This prevents the problem with holds when you are not able to get tehm.

The fee should be $0.25, it seems more reasonable.

I had two books on which I placed holds three plus months ago and which are on my book club list for discussion in the spring of 2018.
Based on my still being a long way down the holds list, I did not place a pause on the holds , while out of town over the Christmas season from Dec 19 to late on Dec 28 th.. But both books suddenly became available while I was away. One of those books I will have time to pick up, the other final pick-up date of 29 Dec was a problem. Assuming the library was open Wed Dec 20 , Thurs. Dec 21, Fri Dec 22 ,Sat Dec 23, And closed 24, ( Sunday ) , 25 and 26 th . Then open 27, 28 and 29....that gave me 7 days to get the book. I haveto assume that the one book whose final pick up date was Dec 29 , was at my library branch on Dec20 th , the day after I went out of town....I am not checking every day, especially at a busy season, and when I was sick.
Perhaps over a major holiday season there could be a longer pick up time allowed.
I have not been an Ottawa resident very long, and I am still learning the rules of the system .
I see you are about to place a fine on books not picked up.
Sorry, but I am an older person , and do not spend much time using electronic devices. Some print material re rules, would have got my attention !

@wilbour It helps to reduce the wait time by not having that hold sit on the hold shelf for a week (or actually longer because by the time it is processed and delivered to the correct branch, it is probably at least 10 days), it could have gone to the next person in line. If you aren't going to pickup a book that is on hold for you, just cancel it so it gets to the next person faster. Even better, don't request it in the first place....this is what the fine is trying to do, having someone request a book and not pickup it up is a waste of resources.
If you pickup the book and read it, well it's gotten to the next customer already (that being you.)
If you don't pick it up, it's taken 10 days longer for it to get to the next customer. (the fine is trying to prevent the request and no pickup, it's not trying to force you to go pick it up, if you want it you should go pick it up anyways, if you don't it's better if you cancel it or preferably don't request it in the first place)

1. Statistically speaking, the book is only on the shelf for the week and most people will wait until the week is almost done before canceling the hold. After all, we have busy lives but try to make every effort to retrieve the book before the week is done. Most people will realize this is not possible until the last day then cancel the hold, saving, what, a day or two.
2. How does not picking up the book take an additional 10 days longer? The library states it takes 10 days to go from your hold spot to the next person in line. Canceling the hold does not shorten the 10 day processing time. No, really, stop and think, it just does not. Stop shaking your head.
3. "preferably don't request it in the first place" You don't realize how many hundreds of books we require for children's' classes that just don't make it to our shelf in time for the lesson. Once the lesson is done and the book comes in it's not picked up. Not ordering it in the first place is nonsense!

I won't be able to afford my favorite library anymore. A 60 percent increase is astronomically high. For a pensioner on a (LOW) income, this is excruciating.

Thank you for your feedback, Dax. The new fees reflect the average annual cost ($81) of Ottawa Public Library services to an Ottawa tax payer.

As far as I know or remember, I've never been late picking up items I've ordered. It would be nice, however, if we had more library hours in semi-rural and rural areas. I find the staff often hasn't had time to put out books we've ordered on a Thursday night. My local library is closed Fridays, which means I, and I'm sure many others, have to scramble some Saturday mornings to get our weekend reading picked up. Many people are away on weekends and/or are busy with multiple tasks, so the library being opened a few hours on Friday afternoon/evening would be a great help. Sometimes I'm not able to pick up until Mondays.
Thank you.