April 15, 2019

Libraries in San Diego erase $2 million in late fees


Libraries in San Diego are forgiving a big debt: the city library system is erasing $2 million in overdue book fines. According to a report from Cat Schuknecht at NPR, this pardon excuses close to 133,000 library patrons who failed to return their library books by their due date.

The library system’s previous policy blocked borrowers from checking out any more books once their debt hit $10. More than half of the forgiven debts were over $10, which means that the library should soon see many returning readers.

We’ve recently seen a growing trend in libraries doing away with or forgiving late fees, and it makes sense. Libraries were designed to provide access to books to all people, regardless of socioeconomic class. When we block people from borrowing books due to late fees, we make libraries accessible only to those privileged enough to afford it. According to a press release from San Diego City Council Member Chris Cate, 40% of patrons at libraries in low-income neighborhoods were barred from checking out books because of outstanding late fees.

The forgiveness campaign is designed to bring these people back into the library system, and of course encourage a love of reading. Library Director Misty Jones says “Wiping the slate clean of outstanding fines means welcoming back many of the under-served patrons who most need our services.”

Libraries: still the best.



Stephanie DeLuca is the director of publicity at Melville House.