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Guille-Alles is the author of its own future

Guernsey Press Comment | Published:

IT WAS not all that long ago that libraries were seen as dusty old institutions, best known for the occasional shhh emanating from behind a desk while a clock ticked loudly.

But to survive, and indeed thrive, these organisations have needed to evolve and the Guille-Alles has been doing just that.

There are a wealth of different resources available beyond the shelves of books that are the traditional bedrock of libraries.

Free digital subscriptions, films and music are all part of the offering.

Late night openings and events such as poetry readings and writers drop-ins are all designed to ensure it remains a community resource and gathering place.

Easy online access to check what’s available and renew books at the touch of a button as well as generous borrowing limits have made it a user friendly enterprise.

Its latest initiative breaks the shackles even further, a small but in its own way revolutionary step: there will no longer be fines for overdue books.

And with the abolition of outstanding charges, you need no longer feel guilty about that book sat idly on your own dusty shelf that you have been too afraid to return for fear of what the bill might be.

Those libraries that have done this elsewhere have reported an increase in usage – in some communities the fines had created inequality of access as some struggled to meet the debt and so were banned, so what should have been a free resource became inaccessible to the very people it should be helping.

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Detractors say that scrapping the fines system removes an incentive for people to return shared resources in a timely manner, but it has been shown to work elsewhere.

The Guille-Alles move also frees up staff time to work on other initiatives.

Its modernisation has led to growth. Visitors, new members and loans have all gone up in the last year.

Some might have written off public libraries as an anachronism in the digital age.

But in Guernsey it is an establishment that is as relevant and vibrant as ever.

Nick Mann

By Nick Mann
author

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