The library aims to stop the misuse of free museum cards by means of replacement fees

The Ottawa Public Library has hundreds of admission tickets to local attractions that can be checked out for free, with many admission tickets provided by federal museums.

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People have been trying to make quick money on free museum cards offered through a popular checkout program at the Ottawa Public Library, which has contributed to reduced accessibility for families who cannot afford to visit national attractions in the metropolitan area.

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grev. Riley Brockington said he was shocked to hear from the OPL that people had checked museum cards and rented them online.

“I knew there was a challenge, but I did not realize how widespread the problem really is,” Brockington said.

Brockington, a library manager, says he is a big supporter of the OPL’s passport program because it allows families to visit local museums if they cannot afford the entrance fees. Over the years, Brockington has advocated for OPL to receive more passes.

OPL has hundreds of admission tickets to local attractions that can be checked out for free, with many cards provided by federal museums.

Spread across the OPL departments, there are 162 passes to the Ingenium Museums (Science and Technology, Aviation and Space, and Agriculture and Food), 85 passes to the Canadian Museum of Nature, 75 passes to the National Gallery of Canada and 35 passes to the Canadian Museum of History.

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On top of that, there are 150 admission tickets to the City of Ottawa museums.

There are also 180 Gatineau Park lift passes and 75 lift passes to the City of Ottawa’s Mooney’s Bay Ski Center.

The passports save families considerable money. For example, a family passport at the Science and Technology Museum is listed as $ 43 on the museum’s website. At the Museum of History, a family pass costs $ 50.

It has historically been a feat for families to find an available museum card in the OPL departments.

A reason? People have simply not returned the cards on time.

As part of its draft 2022 budget, the OPL intends to charge people $ 50 to their library accounts for non-returned cards, an increase from the current $ 20 fee.

Catherine Seaman, OPL’s division manager for customer experience, said some people had stuck to the passport to use multiple times, as OPL only charged a $ 20 compensation fee.

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Seaman said the OPL hoped the increased compensation fee, starting in 2022, would convince people to return the passport.

There is another justification for the $ 50 compensation fee.

OPL’s material recovery policy states that if someone has outstanding fees totaling more than $ 50 for more than 90 days, OPL will refer the account to a recovery agency and add a $ 15 referral fee.

“Now that we’re not charging late fees anymore and that we have this $ 50 block, it was a good time to introduce this,” Seaman said.

It is difficult to control the submissions for OPL who do not want to charge a deposit as it would create a financial barrier for families. Seaman says the program is really meant for families who can’t afford to visit the museums.

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Brockington wants to make it clear to residents in his River Department that the free cards are for these families.

“What we’re seeing now are well-connected families who know where the passport is, are able to acquire it for their use, and that’s fair,” Brockington said, noting that there are no rules as to who may use the passport.

Still, Brockington says the OPL needs to have better control over the circulation of the passes. For example, the museum could simply collect the passports when used so they can be returned or picked up by the OPL, he said.

“I do not want to restrict families from benefiting from this program,” Brockington said. “I think there is more work that can be done from the library.”

jwilling@postmedia.com

twitter.com/JonathanWilling

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