Beginning May 9, 2023, the King County Library System (KCLS) – including the Burien and Boulevard Park libraries – will stop charging late fines for library items that are overdue.
They will also clear all late fine accruals from patron accounts.
KCLS’ Board of Trustees approved these changes April 26, 2023.
Last year, the Board asked staff to analyze the impact of late fines. KCLS staff gathered and reviewed relevant data for six months, and presented their findings to the board on March 29.
The presentation included the following highlights:
- Late fines worsen inequality and discourage library use. Individuals with low-income and limited access to transportation and technology are most impacted.
- Late fines generate little revenue. In recent years, fines made up less than 1% of KCLS’ operating budget.
- Late fine revenue continues to decrease over time. This trend correlates with patrons’ interest in more digital and fewer physical items. Digital titles return automatically and do not accrue late fines.
- Collecting fines from patrons also has costs. Associated expenses include staff time, payment processing fees, printing notices and more.
- A majority of peer libraries have eliminated late fines.
“Those most impacted by late fines already face the greatest challenges in accessing the library,” said KCLS Executive Director Lisa Rosenblum. “When fines become a thing of the past, libraries can become a bigger part of everyone’s future.”
“We thank KCLS for their insightful analysis and proposal, and we are pleased to approve this policy change,” added KCLS Board President Harish Kulkarni. “We hope patrons enjoy the new fines-free experience, and find that they have greater access to information and opportunity.”
Replacement fees are different from late fines. If library materials are more than 60 days overdue, they are considered lost. KCLS must still charge replacement fees for lost, damaged and missing items, as required by state law.
About the King County Library System:
Founded in 1942, the King County Library System (KCLS) is one of the busiest public library systems in the country. Supporting the communities of King County (outside the city of Seattle), KCLS has 50 libraries and serves nearly 1.6 million people. In 2022, residents checked out 7.9 million digital eBooks and audiobooks through OverDrive, making KCLS the second-highest digital circulating library system in the U.S. In 2011, KCLS was named Library of the Year by Gale/Library Journal.