Library Fines for Kids Nothing New


How many DVDs is that?
This is the furthest yet you've bent over backwards trying to rationalize the actions of this administration, and you're beginning to embarrass yourselves as a newspaper. Seriously, we're referring library fines to a collection agency? But don't worry, if the borrower is under 17 it won't go on their credit report. Oh, OK then.

The McGinn administration looks more foolish with each passing day. Reuven Carlyle is right, and I hope he runs for mayor.
Weird that fines for children under 12 weren't imposed until recently. I remember paying fines to King County library system long before I was 12 years old. The fines are so small, it's actually a good first opportunity for kids to learn about late fees.

Also, I think there's a cap on per-item fines. So even as an adult, you'd have to be holding on to dozens of books for an extended period of time for it to be reported to a collection agency. Correct?
Hey @2 a fine is a fine - fines are, like, you know, supposed to be PAID. That's pretty much the definition of a "fine", a monetary penalty, in this case for keeping a library item past its return date.

And again, as Dom has pointed out at least twice, and as other commenters have also noted: this is NOT something new. I've been checking books out of libraries for more than 40 years, and even as a kid I was quite aware the library would levy fines for late return, up to the replacement cost of the item.

Look at it this way: it's another opportunity to teach kids about their responsibility to return the things they borrow ON TIME and in good condition, to take care of those things while they're in their possession and to be responsible for the consequences if they don't.

I'd think that would be a lesson even you bootstrapping, individualistical liberterrarian types could get behind...
Let's just let cops with tasers collect the fines from the kids, right?
it looks better in all caps: THE ULTIMATE BLOW AGAINST FAMILIES!

@3 & @4 I'm all in favor of library fines for all the various reasons you pointed out. I'd just prefer that my kid's late notice comes from the library system and not a freaking collection agency.

But Dom's focus on this library nonsense avoids Reuven's larger point:
And so the irony of closing community centers, pools, libraries while we are trying to engage young people and families in the challenge of building community is not lost on anyone.

Besides Dan and Charles, I'm wondering who at the Stranger has kids. Do they even understand what Reuven's trying to talk about?
@4 Aww, come on, I'm a "bootstrapping, individualistical liberterrarian type" because I agree with something Reuven Carlisle wrote?
@7: I think you'd be very surprised. Most of us aren't gay. (Most of us don't live in Seattle, either. Say goodbye to another preconception.)
I'm from Kansas City, and I find this humorous. The Johnson County Library system, one of the best in the country, has always collected fines on children. I was one of those kids that would go to the library and check out 20 books at a time. I was also one of those kids that never turned books in on time. I regularly paid fines, and any time my fines were over $20, my library card was frozen, and after the fines reached a larger number (can't remember exactly), it was referred to a collection agency. The idea of not collecting fines on kids, or not referring library fines to a collection agency baffles me. I'm not saying that's the way it should be, just that I've never seen it done another way, so this amuses me.

If you don't pay the fines, you don't get to check out materials until the fines are paid. What about that isn't good enough to teach children an important life lesson?
@7 - Just the opposite. As a frequent reader, I'm well aware of the Slogosphere's diversity in terms of age, geography, politics, sexual orientation and even I.Q. (hey there Will!).

My comments in this case had more to do with The Stranger's editorial staff.
Oh, well, that's a different story, Joe.
The real question is why Burgess and Carlyle have jumped on this as a "THINK OF THE CHILDREN" issue.

Library fines are perhaps the most painless way to begin teaching kids about responsibility. Who believes kids should be allowed to return books late, lose them, or keep (ie steal) them, and have no consequences? People who believe that wake and bake every day and never vote.

Who is telling these two pols this issue is a political winner? McGinn is going to win this one, politically, morally and above all by simple common sense.
"Keep 'em laughing about the library" WIN for you and the seventh floor, Dom.
This can't be right, I paid fines on "encyclopedia brown" books, etc. when I was in first grade. They were checked out from the SPL. 5cents a day. This would have been about 1987.
@16 and you just turned them in now?
Oh please, Joe, no collection agency that wants to stay in business is going to go after a nine year-old with $2.25 in back dues from the library; that's just more of the same "OOOOH TEH BIG, BAD GUBBAMINT COMMIN' AFTER MEE AGIN!!" paranoid crazy-talk I seem to hear certain types droning on and on about ad nauseum these days

Which is why I'm lumping you in with those types on this thread...
I could be wrong about this, but I was under the impression that the previous policy change collected fines on items designated for children, but not if they were checked out on children's library cards (ie. an adult returning a children's book late would pay a fine). It sounds like the new fines apply to children's cards, which I don't think were fined previously.
It's time to make the little bastards pay up!
If there is zero consequences for not returning a book (or DVD or whatever), then there is zero incentive for people to actually bring it back. Duh. I'm all for small fines, even for kids. And the fines are so tiny, you'd have to be a complete moron or an egregious violator to get anywhere near $25 in unpaid fines.

Not losing sleep over this one.
Dom, buddy, keep up with us here. If you read my blog post from, and the Crosscut reprint, you'll see that I was making a much more figurative argument that we as a city have lost our knowledge of the public infrastructure, systems, structures and policies that could make us a child-friendly community.

The point wasn't really whether to shake down pre-teens for late library books. It was to attempt, unsuccessfully in your book, to elevate the level of dialogue about the fact that Seattle has the lowest percentage of households with children in the nation. The proposed budget is more of a symbolic example of that reality.

I know it's fun to jump on one sentence of an entire piece and roll with it, but surely even you my friend must recognize there are legitimate and substantive public policy issues to being on the march toward a virtually childless city.

Your partner in service,

Reuven Carlyle
State Representative
36th District
@7, there's a real easy way to avoid ever paying a penny in library fines, and that's BRINGING THE STUFF BACK. And you don't go straight to collections; you get notice after notice after notice from the library first, and it only goes to collections after it goes over $25, which is really pretty hard to do, and even then only after many notices from the library. The administration of which also costs the library a bundle.

It's not a big deal. Kids, bring your books and DVDs back on time. You'll have to pay nothing. It's not an "elbow" to families, and it's sure as hell not the ULTIMATE elbow.

Carlyle's the one who looks like a Seattle boob here, not the mayor.
Was it fun to write that library fines for kids we're the "perhaps the ultimate elbow against families", Reuven?

The dictionary tells us that "ultimate" means you intended to write that library fines are the worst of the issues you raised. And calling it an "elbow" means you think it is an unfair and cruel act. Your thoughts, your words.

Your own overblown "think of the children" rhetoric is the precise reason that this issue attracted attention. We all know the emotional knee-jerk reaction you were hoping for with your hyperbole, and it backfired, Mr. Carlyle. Blame yourself for that.

Instead of picking apart the no-win budget choices of local mayors, why not go to Olympia and do something to put an end to this permanent state of budget crisis? We must replace sales and property taxes with progressive income taxes at the state, county AND city levels. What have you done to make that happen?
Reuven's comments are about how difficult it is becoming to be middle class and raise a family in Seattle. Ever grocery shop for kids? Good luck getting your 3+ bags of groceries and gallon of milk (2x per week) home on your bike - with your kids in tow. If you kids are involved in extracurricular activities, then you better be driving since schools have dramatically cut back on sports/activities to save money. If your kid wants to shoot a few hoops then you need to drive since community centers are closing/reducing hours. Does your kid want to play soccer or football? Good luck getting a time slot on your local field since sport fields are being leased out to adult teams who pay the City over $500 per team for their evening use. These are the issues, not library fines. I voted for this mayor, but I hope he is recalled!
Most library systems went to collection agencies to collect overdue fines quite some years ago. Reason being, the library systems generally can't afford to pay staff members to do that type of work; they have other work to do. So they send out a few notices, then go to the agencies. I remember a few years back seeing the difference in paid fines after SPL went to the collection agency, and it was quite substantial. For most people, it only takes one call, and they send the check or bring in the money. It's quite a large sum of money for a citywide library system, and they need every penny.
@23 it's obvious you don't have any kids.
I don't understand how applying fines to overdue childrens' items can be seen as anti- family. On the contrary, teaching children to be responsible citizens is a parental duty. Part of that learning process is that actions have consequences. This is a simple and inexpensive way of demonstrating that.