KITCHENER -- The Kitchener Public Library is joining more than 100 libraries across the continent in permanently eliminating overdue fees.

In a news release issued on Tuesday morning, the library explained that the decision was made to provide more equitable and accessible service to library users.

"While overdue fines were originally introduced as a motivator for customers to return materials in a timely manner, studies have found they have the unintended consequence of disproportionately impacting lower-income, marginalized and minority populations," the release read in part.

The release linked to a report from the Financial Justice Project of San Francisco and the San Francisco Public Library titled, "Eliminating Fines on Overdue Materials to Improve Access to San Francisco Public Library."

Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic weighed in on the move on Twitter, saying he was pleased that the city's latest budget supported a financial model that allowed the library to eliminate the fines.

The library's financial statement from 2019 showed that "fees, fines etc." accounted for more than $376,000 of the library's $12.9 million in revenue, or nearly three per cent.

"We have worked hard to find ways to recover that loss of revenue," CEO Mary Chevreau said.

One option is turning the library into an event space once it's safe to do so.

"You want to get married in the Kitchener Public Library in their beautiful lounge, you can do that moving forward," Chevreau said. "We are starting to use the spaces after hours in a different way."

Chevreau said there were around 11,000 people with blocked cards because of late fees, but now there's a clean slate for everyone.

"We are delighted to be able to invite everyone back and remove that barrier," she said.

"Public libraries play a pivotal role in supporting education and literacy. It’s important that everyone has access to the same information, resources and support that we have to offer, regardless of their financial situation," said KPL's board Chair Stephanie Soulis in a statement.

"Going fine-free will support those in our community who need it most. I am so excited to welcome back them back to their library."

Despite the elimination of fees for overdue books, the KPL won't become a free book store: officials noted that library materials still need to be returned and that long overdue items will be billed.

Library officials also said they don't expect wait times to increase for holds with the new change, noting that many libraries have actually seen quicker returns after going fine-free.

Customers will still be able to keep items for three weeks and can renew most items twice if they aren't already on hold.

The library said it will still issue a replacement bill for items that are 60 days overdue. Items that are lost or damaged are also subject to replacement costs.

In Cambridge, the Idea Exchange also announced Tuesday it would be eliminating fines for children's materials, forgiving all current fines on children's cards.

"Forgiving these fines removes a financial barrier for children who need our resources the most, creating lifelong learners, a gift that benefits the whole community," said CEO Helen Kelly in a statement.

County of Brant Public Library went fine-free in December of 2019. In that case, the library said that overdue charges would still be applied to items that come from other libraries through the inter-library loan system.

Many Kitchener residents took to social media to say they were happy about the library's decision.