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Libraries can not legally charge user fees

Dear Editor,
Re: Story of March 19, 2013 – “Council to look at user fees for library”
The Rainy River Public Library Board is alarmed by a statement from Town Council about library membership fees.
Under Ontario’s Public Libraries Act, membership fees for local residents are illegal. The Library Board has already explained this to Council several times. The Board does not intend to break the law. We hope Council is not suggesting we do so.
The only fees the library can legally charge are for services *not* listed in “Regulation 976” of the Libraries Act. This includes things like photocopying, faxing and late fines. It also includes a non-resident charge for people living outside the library’s service area.
Library cards are free for all residents of Rainy River, Dawson, Lake of the Woods, and Morley. Those four municipalities pay about $35,000 per year to the library - $32,000 comes from the town. Combined, the municipalities also get about $8,000 from the province for library service each year. Sadly, that number hasn’t grown in more than 15 years. It doesn’t go up even when the library is well used.
All other library money must come from fundraising, grants and fees.
The Library Board works very hard applying for grants. We have earned about $30,000 that way since 2011.
We don’t have many choices with fees. People living in places that do not support the library – including the unorganized townships - must pay $25 per family per year to use the library. We used to get a government grant to give those areas free service, but the money was taken away in 1999.
While the Board understands Town Council is being fiscally responsible, unhelpful comments about illegal fees won’t solve those problems. We will only find the way ahead by pooling our resources and working together.

Michael Dawber,