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Library News Release

Release Date: 06/12/2009

Library recommends updating materials loan policy to increase circulation of books and materials for all users

The Seattle Public Library is recommending updates to its materials loan policy to maximize the circulation of books and materials among all Library card holders and to bring it in line with other library systems. The policy has not been reviewed since 2003. The Library Board will consider the proposal at its 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 24 meeting at the Central Library, 1000 Fourth Ave., Level 4.


The Library began working on revisions to the policy following the recent completion of the Libraries for All building program. The impact of new and renovated buildings in every neighborhood together with the recession, have resulted in significant increases in Library usage. The policy revisions will help the Library maintain a high level of service in a period of constrained budgets and staffing. The Library will implement $1 million in cuts this year.

Under provisions of the proposal:


  • A customer could check out a total of 50 items at one time. The limit is currently 100. Institutions, such as day cares and preschools, would continue to have the option of checking out up to 100 items. Currently, only 1 percent of borrowers have more than 50 items checked out at one time, while the vast majority- more than 80 percent of borrowers - have 10 or fewer items checked out. This recommendation makes The Seattle Public Library's policy consistent with some neighboring library systems. The proposed change would help keep more books and materials available for browsing and circulation.


  • A customer could place a total of 25 holds at any one time. The limit is currently 100. Generally only 7 percent of borrowers have more than 25 holds yet their requests account for over 44 percent of total requests in the system. This limit will stretch the Library's book and materials budget as fewer copies will be needed per title and will reduce stress on the Library's technical systems without service impact on the majority of customers. The King County Library System limits holds to 25 items.


  • The Library would no longer absorb the total cost of interlibrary loans. The Seattle Public Library currently pays the full cost for borrowing material from other library systems. The average cost is $20-$30 per transaction. Most libraries pass on some or all of the cost to their customers. This specialized service is used by a small number of customers. Under the updated materials loan proposal, a customer would be charged $5 for each interlibrary loan request successfully filled.


  • All Library materials could incur fines. Currently, the Library does not charge fines for materials designated for children 12 and under, as well as for literacy and ESL materials. This practice is also consistent with other library systems, particularly now that technology provides borrowers with many ways to manage their Library card accounts. They can check their records online or by phone and receive email notices about materials coming due. Eliminating fine free materials encourages the prompt return of these items, making them available for other customers.

  • Library card fees for non residents would change. An annual nonresident card would increase from $55 to $85 and a three-month visitor card would increase from $15 to $25. The Library last adjusted these fees six years ago and the changes bring them in line with the per capita costs for Seattle residents. Nearby systems charge annual nonresident fees that range from $56 to $100.

For more information contact:

Andra Addison, communications director

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