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Library News Release

Release Date: 07/24/2003

The Seattle Public Library to launch pay-for-print system

UPDATE : Tests begin at the Broadview Branch on Monday, Aug. 18 and at the Temporary Central Library on Sunday, Sept. 7.

The Seattle Public Library is planning to launch a pay-for-print system for printing from public access computers to cut paper and toner waste, defray costs and better serve patrons.

The Library will test a pay-for-print system beginning Monday, July 28 at the Delridge Branch, 5423 Delridge Way S.W. The Library also will conduct tests at the Broadview Branch, 12755 Greenwood Ave. N., in mid-August, and at the Temporary Central Library, 800 Pike St., in early September; the precise dates have not yet been set.

During the trial periods, patrons will use the new system to print copies, but the Library will not charge for printing.

Patrons who choose to print from public access computers must first go to a "print release" computer and select "OK" to print their job.

The goal is to install pay-for-print equipment in all the Library's permanent facilities this fall and then conduct a system-wide test. If the tests are successful, the Library plans to launch the pay-for-print program system-wide in the fall.

While a per-page cost has not yet been set, Library staff members plan to recommend to The Seattle Public Library board of trustees that users pay 10 cents per page. Printing from the Library catalog would be free. The charge for photocopying printed materials would remain 15 cents per page.

The goal is to have a system that is cost-neutral, not to make a profit. Library systems in San Francisco, Vancouver, B.C., and Tacoma also charge a printing fee.

"We're asking patrons to help us conserve valuable resources," said Deborah L. Jacobs, city librarian. "Making these services self-supporting will allow us to keep our overall level of service high. We want to continue to provide high-quality materials, the best staff and consistent services to our patrons."

Currently, patrons have unrestricted, free access to printing from the Library's public access computers. Sometimes, patrons print large documents, often off the Web. As more information becomes available in electronic form, patrons are choosing to print research material from online references rather than photocopy printed material.

In June 2003, for example, patrons printed 241,254 pages from public access computers. The Library estimates that at least 50 percent of all printing is waste. The Library's budget office says the Library is currently subsidizing at least $60,000 a year in public service printing and copying costs.

In 2000, the Library Board directed Library staff to develop and implement a plan to charge a reasonable fee to recover the costs. Since January 2001, the Library's operating budget has been cut six times, which has meant reductions in open hours and other services.

A pay-for-print system will help defray costs in two ways. First, patrons will pay to print their own copies. Second, other libraries report that print volumes initially decrease between 30 percent and 70 percent as patrons begin to use the "print preview" function and print only what they need.

"We can save trees, and reduce the amount of wasted paper and toner trash entering our landfills," Jacobs said.

The new system also will provide patrons with a higher quality of printing. The fees for the system will allow the Library to better maintain the equipment, and provide a more consistent standard of service.

Once the Library begins charging for printing, patrons will be able to insert coins or currency into a pay station and establish an account using the number on their Library Card. The account will be debited each time the patron prints.

For more information contact:

Caroline Young Ullmann, assistant communications director

Andra Addison, communications director

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