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Spokane Public Library gets rid of late fees and printing costs

SPOKANE, Wash. - The Spokane Public Library announced Thursday it will no longer charge overdue fines, effective immediately. But that doesn't mean you can just take books home. 

Any books that are more than 14 days overdue will still be considered lost, and customers will still be billed for any lost items. The library said it will continue to send email reminders to customers about due dates.

If you rack up $50.00 in lost items, your account will be locked. Whenever those materials are returned, the balance will go away. 

None of this is new, it's how the library has always handled lost or stolen items. But before, customers were charged 20 cents per day after the item's due date. That fee is no longer in place, meaning you will not be charged anything until your item is past 14 days overdue. 

Fees associated with copies and printing have also been eliminated. Up to 50 pages per library card per month are now allowed for free.

Library staff said the late fines and printing fees are not a significant revenue stream for them. In fact, they said revenue from late fines is offset by the cost of administrating and collecting the funds.

The Board of Trustees voted unanimously in May 2019 to eliminate the fines. Several other libraries around the country have already made the change, including the Columbus Metropolitan Library and Salt Lake City Public Library.

In 2019, the American Library Association officially came out against fines, saying the system creates a barrier for people who use the library and its information services.

"Overdue fines create a barrier to library access for the most economically vulnerable populations in our community. These are the same populations that are in greatest need of our services including children, the homeless and the working poor," says Andrew Chanse, the library's Executive Director.

However, if you already had fines due, you're not off the hook. Any fines posted to accounts prior to August 2019 will still be due.

Customers are urged to continue to return materials on time so that others may check them out. 


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