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Quality of Life

San Diego Public Library offers fee amnesty for youths through 'Fresh Start'

A view of the San Diego Public Library, Sept. 9, 2016.
KPBS Staff
A view of the San Diego Public Library, Sept. 9, 2016.

The San Diego Public Library has started a program offering one-time forgiveness for young people who have had their accounts suspended for unreturned items, it was announced Wednesday.

The Fresh Start program launched this week will erase any past debts owed by SDPL library card holders under the age of 18 and lift suspensions on those accounts, a city statement read.

"Library access is vitally important and SDPL is committed to making the library open to everyone, regardless of their circumstances," said Library Director Misty Jones. "The library eliminated fines and fees in 2018 and the Fresh Start program builds on that, removing the financial barrier to library access for youth and allowing them full access to the books, programs and educational resources that will benefit them throughout their lives."


According to the SDPL, there are more than 2,770 people under the age of 18 whose accounts were suspended because they did not return items. Library Foundation SD has pledged $175,500 to replace the missing items and clear the accounts.

"The Library Foundation SD and our supporters are committed to taking steps to remove barriers that ensure equal access to the life-changing impact of the library," Library Foundation SD CEO Patrick Stewart said. "We are proud to support the Fresh Start Program and increase library access for young people."

Going forward, young people who do not return items will not have their debt turned over to collections. Instead, library staff will work with them to get the items back or find another way to reinstate the account, a statement from the city reads.

Youth patrons whose accounts have been suspended can apply for Fresh Start online — — or at any SDPL location. Parents and guardians can apply on behalf of a juvenile account holder. Patrons who have fines on juvenile accounts but are now adults are also eligible to apply.

"As a city, we are focused on identifying and eliminating systemic inequities that have existed for years in many of the programs and services we provide to San Diegans," said Kim Desmond, chief race and equity officer for the city. "This program is one example of how using an equity lens cultivates expanding access so that everyone in our communities has the same opportunities and access to resources."


Fresh Start is a one-time waiver, and youth patrons who fail to return items and accrue new fees after their accounts are cleared will not be allowed to apply again.