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January 2nd is Christmas for those with Seattle library fines

Christmas may have already passed, but January 2 may be Christmas for Seattle residents who have been avoiding the local library because of fines.

That’s the date Seattle Public Library set for eliminating daily fees for overdue materials and forgive any existing balances as well. It’s all thanks to the approval of the $219 million Seattle library levy, which among many other library funding initiatives, will cover any loss of associated revenue. The levy will also extend library hours, fund renovations and maintenance, and invest in library collections and technology services, among other needs.

Kitsap Library swaps late fees for good old-fashioned guilt

Why eliminate fines? According to SPL, “Late fines discourage people who can’t afford them from using the Library, and we want everyone in our community to have equitable access to our programs, services and collections.” This follows a trend across the country in which upwards of 50 libraries have eliminated fines, increasing access in the community. Studies across the U.S. have shown that fines had very little impact in returns, and often inhibited people from ever returning to the library. It turns out that simply guilting people into returning the books is enough.

Seattle joins cities like Denver and Saint Paul in eliminating the fines, which are currently 25 cents per day for most items, up to a limit of $8 per item. Items transferred from other libraries have late fees of $1 per day, up to $15 per item. Those who owe more than $15 are blocked from checking out additional items.

Better late than never: Library gets book 47 years overdue

But this isn’t a free for all. You will actually have to give the books back eventually. While SPL believes that patrons’ return rates will not take a nosedive with the change, if someone goes so far as to keep the books for more than two weeks past its due date, the library will get tough and and suspend the account until the hostage books are returned. A month past the due date and you’ll have to pay for a new one.

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