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San Diego Library to eliminate collection fines for kids

Program would restore library access for nearly 3,000 kids
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Posted at 12:03 PM, Apr 09, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-09 15:03:31-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A new program from the San Diego Library would eliminate overdue collection fees and fines for kids across the city.

Right now, 2,779 kids owe the library money because of lost or missing items. Those fines and fees are sent to the City's collections department through the treasurer.

The kids responsible for the items also lose access to the library.

Under a new proposal that's expected to be approved by the City Council Tuesday, all current debts will be wiped out. The City would also stop referring any new debts to collections.

"A lot of times with juveniles, they have to rely on other people to return those items, or maybe they don't have a parent or a guardian who helps them keep up," City Librarian Misty Jones explained to ABC 10News Morning Anchor Jared Aarons. "We really, really do not want juveniles to not have access to the library."

The Library Foundation plans to cover the cost of all current fees in collections. That will cost around $170,000. Jones says donors have lined up to help pay for that since the idea was first announced.

Going forward, any child who does not return an item will still lose library access. But they won't have their debt turned over to collections. Instead, library staff will work to reach out to the family and either get the item back, or find another way to bring their account back to good standing.

"That's going to give us the opportunity to really sit down and work with that user to create some kind of way that they can they can pay off that fine," says Jones. "It gives us the ability to help them understand why it's so important to return those materials so that other people can enjoy it."

Jones says this is also an equity issue. Of the 2,779 accounts currently in collections, 64% are from underserved areas.

Helping kids in those communities maintain library access is a priority for the city and the library system.

"The statistics are just so disturbing," says Jones. "There are increased mortality rates, increased incarceration rates, increased poverty rates [for kids without library access]. So it's really important that we are providing every opportunity for all youth to have access to books, or have access to education, or access to those resources that are really going to benefit them throughout their life."

Jones says this idea is modeled after a similar program from Seattle, where 80% of the kids who had their fines waived did not incur any other fees. Nearly 70% of them are now active users of the library.

She says the San Diego Library is ready to start outreach to eligible children as soon as Wednesday if the City Council approves the idea. If anyone wants more information, they can get it at any city library branch.