Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

Seattle Public Library ends fines for overdue books


Good news for library users: Seattle Public Library has eliminated overdue fines for borrowed books and materials.

In addition, people with outstanding fines will have them cleared and users who have overdue materials that haven’t been returned can receive fine forgiveness. 

The change took effect Jan. 2 as Seattle follows what is becoming a national trend.

“We want everyone to have easy and equitable access to library resources,” said Chief Librarian Marcellus Turner said in a news release. “Fines can be a very real and significant burden for some of the most vulnerable residents in our community. … By removing this obstacle we are giving every resident in Seattle greater access to education and opportunity.”

The loss of revenue from fines, already happening because of increased use of electronic materials, will be made up with funds from the voter-approved 2019 Seattle library levy.

Keep in mind, of course, that SPL still wants you to return what you borrow. Failing to return something will result in a suspension of borrowing privileges after 14 days. In addition, users will still be expected to pay for anything that gets lost or damaged.

Librarians hope the new policy might bring back people who had shied away from library usage, and attract new users.

To that end, they've put out a great list of library offerings and services that you might not have known about:

  • Stream movies for free by accessing Hoopla and Kanopy through the library.
  • Need a new read? Try Your Next Five. Tell librarians what you’re looking for and they'll email you five ideas within four days.
  • Learn a language via SPL using Mango, an online language program.
  • Learn chess at three SPL branches, including Detective Cookie’s famous chess club.
  • LibraryLab, an all-ages program that introduces STEM concepts to kids through play.
  • Comics crazy? Hoopla has a huge collection.
  • Consumer Reports is available online with your SPL card.


More information online: SPL in general, events calendar, the new, no-fine policy.

King County Library System still assesses fines. Learn about its borrowing policies here.


About the Author

Julie Hanson