Rejoice, fellow book nerds: As of today, the Seattle Public Library is abolishing daily fines for overdue books and materials. Existing balances for late returns will also be forgiven.
The change, mind you, didn’t arise from complaints about having to surrender the latest Picoult or Palahniuk too soon. About a year ago, the American Library Association recognized the fining system as an economic barrier to accessing materials and encouraged library systems to eliminate late fees. Seattle was experiencing that inequity: The library reported that there were more blocked accounts in “'low opportunity' neighborhoods, as defined by the city” than in other Seattle communities.
“We want everyone to have easy and equitable access to Library resources," chief librarian Marcellus Turner said in a statement. "Fines can be a very real and significant burden for some of the most vulnerable residents in our community. We know this kind of financial barrier can deter people who need us most from using the Library, which means they stop using resources needed for school work, to search for jobs, improve literacy skills and more. By removing this obstacle we are giving every resident in Seattle greater access to education and opportunity."
The $219 million Seattle library levy will compensate for the loss of fine revenue. No, you won’t be able to hole up with a copy of Infinite Jest forever without consequence. Once an item is 14 days late, the offending account will be suspended until the material is returned. And books that are at least a month late will be considered lost and incur a replacement charge (though that charge will be removed if the item is eventually brought back).
But the days of those incrementally annoying daily fees are over. Pour one out for the Library Cop.