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City Of San Diego Forgives More Than $2 Million In Library Late Fees

Library staffer scans books at the North Clairemont Library, April 9, 2019.

Photo by Kris Arciaga

Above: Library staffer scans books at the North Clairemont Library, April 9, 2019.

The city of San Diego on Tuesday waived more than $2 million in library fines. More than 70,000 people had been banned from using libraries in San Diego for not paying late fees. Now those fines have been cleared.

"We don’t want to penalize people. We want them to bring the materials back but we’re saying, 'It’s okay if you’re a little bit late. We’re going to get rid of those fines,'" said Misty Jones, director of the San Diego library.

Last year the city stopped charging fines at libraries.

"We changed the policy," Jones said. "So now moving forward we don’t charge overdue fines. We want you to bring the item back. If you don’t bring it back, you have to pay for it but we don’t charge you that late fee every day."

San Diego City Councilman Chris Cate pushed the idea. He said the city was wasting more money trying to collect fines.

"We found that we brought in about $600,000 in fines a year and it cost us $1.2 million to collect those fines," Jones said.

The city said clearing fines and allowing people to use libraries will help communities that need it the most.

"We found that in our more underserved communities, our Valencia Park Malcolm X Library (and) the Logan Heights Library in Barrio Logan, had over 40% of their patrons barred from access because they had fines they couldn’t pay and those are really the communities that needed us the most," Jones said.

The city said it forgave thousands of fines dating back to at least 2005. Library staff plan to email people letting them know they are no longer banned.

Reported by Kris Arciaga

The city said that by forgiving late fees, more than 70,000 people who were banned from city libraries for excessive fines are welcome back.

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