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Fine-free Week at the City’s 104 libraries will coincide with National Book Week which runs from Monday, 3 September to Sunday, 9 September 2018. The mountain of unreturned material is proving a cliffhanger for the City of Cape Town’s libraries. In an attempt to recover more than 20 000 overdue items, patrons will have an opportunity to return overdue items, escape a fine and get back into the good books of their local library. Read more below:

‘Currently, there are more than 20 000 items including books, study guides and DVDs that are long overdue at the City’s libraries, valued at around R2 million. Staff are spending too many hours trying to track down patrons who checked out the items. This is time that could have been spent more productively on direct service delivery. Missing items also deprive others from enjoying them,’ said the City of Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security; and Social Services, Alderman JP Smith.

During National Book Week, patrons will have the opportunity to return all overdue library materials without facing any repercussions.

‘Although this is still a few weeks away I want to encourage our patrons to start dusting off the books and DVDs they’ve been too embarrassed to return because of the time lapse. Your opportunity to take it back without a fine is coming.

‘During the last Fine-free Week earlier this year, libraries retrieved 6 067 items to the value of R283 000,’ said Alderman Smith.

In addition, lost library cards will be replaced at no cost to patrons.

‘National Book Week aims to promote reading, which is a powerful tool in fighting poverty. Literacy and reading are at the heart of education, personal growth and development. Even when a child is encouraged to read for pleasure, it impacts on his educational achievements,’ explained Alderman Smith.

Unreturned items are a huge challenge for the City’s libraries given budget constraints. Missing loan items also makes it difficult to ensure that patrons have access to relevant, adequate and up-to-date collections.

‘While just one item may seem insignificant, it could be that one study guide that a student needs to pass, or the one book that will propel a child into a love of studying. I want to urge patrons to return library stock so that everyone has the opportunity to experience the joy of what they have to offer,’ said Alderman Smith.

National Book Week aims to mitigate the findings of a 2006 study, which was repeated in 2016, that shows a disturbing increase in the number of households in South Africa that do not own a single leisure reading book – up from 51% in 2006 to 58% in 2016. In addition, only 14% of the country’s population are committed readers.

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