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Seattle Public Library eliminates late fees, increases hours in 2020

Seattle Public Library's will no longer charge patrons for overdue fines and has eliminated all overdue fines for library users to date. It's among several changes.

Seattle Public Library's is turning the page on a new year and announcing it will no longer charge patrons for overdue books. It will also erase all overdue fines for library users to date.

The change is effective as of Jan. 2, 2020.

“We’re taking away the shame, the blame, and the stress,” said Rick Sheridan, director of Institutional and Strategic Advancement for SPL. “If you’re a little bit late in returning that book, that’s okay, we want you to come back.”  

Seattle is following other library systems nationwide that have done away with overdue fines. Research shows fines have little impact on when materials are returned, Sheridan said. 

As of Thursday, 51,000 patrons whose accounts were blocked due to overdue fines can now return to the library system, Sheridan said.

There will still be some rules, though, to ensure everyone is able to access the materials they need.

Library goers will now be able to renew items up to three times if no one else is waiting for them. The library will send reminders via email, text, and phone to help borrowers remember to make their returns. 

If you do not return an item within 14 days after it's due, your library account will be suspended until the item is returned. The library will consider an item lost if it's not returned after 31 days past its due date. Patrons will be responsible for replacement fines if the item is damaged or lost. 

Patrons can find details on the new policies here. 

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Another change this year is starting Jan. 5, every neighborhood branch will open one hour earlier on Sunday. Later this year, some of the busiest branches will also have more hours on nights and weekends.

The change in policy follows the approval of a seven-year $219 million Seattle library levy, which voters passed overwhelmingly in August 2019.

The “Libraries for All” Library Renewal Levy is a renewal of the 2012 Library Levy. The current levy will pay for any loss of revenue caused by eliminating fines, 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.

Seattle Public Library has 27 locations around the city.

Sheridan was joined by Mayor Jenny Durkan, District 5 Councilmember Debora Juarez, and other library personnel during Thursday's announcement. 

RELATED: Seattle mayor wants to waive library late fees under new levy