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Seattle mayor wants to waive library late fees under new levy

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is asking voters to extend a multimillion-dollar library levy that is expiring this year.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan wants to extend the city’s expiring library levy and is offering to eliminate overdue book fines in return, along with several other improvements to Seattle Public Library’s 27 locations around the city.

Durkan rolled out her seven-year, $213 million “Libraries for All” plan on Wednesday. It includes continuing existing services, increasing library hours, improving digital access, and seismic retrofits of three historic library branches in Green Lake, Columbia City, and the University District.

The proposal would renew and expand the existing 2012 library levy that expires this year. Durkan’s office claims it will add around $1.58 a month to the average homeowner’s property tax bill for a total of about $7 per month.

“If we are going to build a city of the future, then we must build the libraries of the future, too," said Durkan. "By renewing our shared investments in The Seattle Public Library, we can lift up the places where communities come together, open up doors to learning, and make Seattle a more equitable place to live."

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As far as the library book fines, Durkan said, “fines are barriers in ways that they shouldn't really be, and don't need to be.”

Durkan’s office claims about 20 percent of accounts are blocked because of past due amounts, and residents in historically underserved neighborhoods have been unfairly impacted.

More than 5 million people visited the Seattle Public Library in 2018 and circulated almost 12 million items.

"Our libraries do so much more than lending books. These pillars of our community provide educational programming for children, workshops for small businesses, and digital and technology access through their computers and wi-fi. The Library also hosted 11,000 free events and helped 9,000 people with their tax returns," said Seattle City Councilmember Debora Juarez.

The Libraries for All proposal was developed based on community feedback and in collaboration with the Seattle Public Library’s Board of Trustees, according to Durkan’s office.

The proposal will need to be approved by Seattle City Council before being sent to voters in the fall. The first City Council hearing is scheduled for March 28.

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