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Library News Release

Release Date: 11/14/2003

The Seattle Public Library launches pay-for-print system Dec. 1, 2003

The Seattle Public Library will launch a print management system for printing from public access computers to cut paper and toner waste, defray costs and give patrons better control of their printing.

Beginning Dec. 1, the Library will charge 10 cents per page to print from Library computers. Printing from the Library catalog will be free and the charge for photocopying printed materials will remain 15 cents per page.

The Library began testing the system in late July. During the trial periods, patrons used the new system to print copies, but did not have to pay for printing.

Branch library managers reported that patrons seemed to quickly master the system and some even offered to begin paying early. Library staff members are being trained to operate the new system so they can help patrons who have questions.

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.

"Making these services self-supporting will allow us to keep our overall level of service high," said City Librarian Deborah L. Jacobs. "We want to continue to provide high-quality materials, the best staff and consistent services."

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 August 2003, for example, patrons printed 252,990 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 Seattle Public Library board of trustees 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 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. Patrons who choose to print from public access computers must first go to a "print release" computer and select "OK" to print their job.

For more information contact:

Caroline Young Ullmann, assistant communications director


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