Marina Flynn, sitting with a book and a coffee, says the library is 'a great warm space to come to'

The libraries in the city of Cape Town will return to their original borrowing privileges from next month onwards. The borrowing privileges were changed previously due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the pandemic, the libraries extended the number of materials a member can borrow alongside the period of borrowing, but from Feb. 1, the borrowing privileges will revert to pre-pandemic arrangements.

On Tuesday, Councillor Patricia van der Ross, the City's Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services and Health, said that "during the pandemic, borrowing privileges were extended to a one month lending period and a maximum of 20 items for all borrowers."

"Those were extraordinary times and the city made the adjustment to benefit our patrons who couldn't access the library or materials as readily," she added, SA News reported.

Ross explained that when members borrow for longer periods, it increases the wait time for other patrons to access library materials. He further added that in the past, fines would accumulate rapidly due to the higher volume of items borrowed.

According to the Councillor, the frequency of access to the material was higher before the pandemic as a single material could circulate 24 times a year, while now, it can circulate only 12 times.

"We want all our patrons to enjoy as much of our libraries' offerings as possible. Therefore, the number of items that can be borrowed will go back to 12 for an adult and seven for children for a borrowing period of two weeks with an opportunity to renew the items for a longer period. This will help us provide a better and more efficient service," she added.

The change will prevent patrons from having their accounts locked due to exceeding the maximum fine limit. This often happens when 20 items are overdue.

She explained that the limit and the number of items discouraged the return of overdue material and affected circulation because patrons do not want to borrow material out of fear of not being able to pay if the material becomes overdue and gets blocked on the system.

Ross added, "It is anticipated that this change will also reduce annual losses, as staff will contact patrons sooner to return overdue material. It will also reduce the risk of accumulating fines. City libraries offer a reservation service, which allows patrons to reserve popular items that are always out on loan."

She also announced that the provincial grant for printed newspapers and magazines won't be available from this year onwards as the libraries in Cape Town will provide only electronic copies via Pressreader, without charging any fees to the library members.