Seattle Library Fines: Raise Them...or Not

Public reaction to the prospect of stiffer Seattle library fines was just what you'd expect: mixed. And a bit limited.

City Library Board members are considering raising daily overdue-materials fines from 15 cents to 25 cents, with a maximum fine of $8 for each overdue piece of material. They're also pondering whether to notify parents or guardians of youths 17 and under who owe more than $25 in fines, and to send some youths' backlogged fines to a collection agency, which is not now done.

All this comes as the library has had its budget cut $1.17 million this year and faces even more as the city confronts a two-year, $121-million revenue shortfall through 2012. Library hours and some staff have already been cut and there are warnings that more reductions are possible.

Raising fines and fees could raise $650,000 per year, according to library staff, in addition to the $650,000 the library expects to save by shutting branches down for a week, starting Monday.

Interesting ideas from patrons: 1) accepting credit cards and PayPal
2) allowing payment online and 3) try being a little more serious about collecting fines. Story from Seattle PI.


but not one comment that patrons should return their books on time?

it appears that fines are considered normal, but only the payment method is the problem... so which lazy method adds the least surcharges?

maybe patrons can just text 55***21 and pay the library $2 whenever they feel they need to pay some fines.

that's probably not a bad idea anyway. just set up where anyone can text $2 to the library whenever they feel good about it...

I think most patrons see fines as small payments for extended loan periods. Whenever I mention ours fines are 10 cents a day, they usually think it's worth it. Even if they end up paying $1 to read the new Patterson they're still coming out ahead.

From the article: "Patron Kenneth Pfaff called the increase in fines 'a fair thing, as the fines can be completely avoided by simply returning things on time.'"

And here I thought fines were meant to be a way of encouraging responsible borrowing, rather than a budget band-aid.

If overdues are causing the library measurably more paid hours or to purchase more materials than they would otherwise, you can make an argument that fines should be raised. Simply saying you're in the red overall, so you've decided to increase your standard punishments is unethical.

That being said, these are on the small side. My quite smaller city is 25¢/day (dvds are $1/day), maximum fine of $10 per item. Of course we bow to the whiners at the slightest hint of whining and waive their fines.

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