After library systems in Contra Costa and San Mateo counties eliminated fines for overdue returns, San Francisco is proposing to be the latest local jurisdiction to get rid of the fines in an effort to increase access to libraries.
Mayor London Breed announced Monday that the San Francisco Public Library will propose at the Library Commission meeting on Thursday to eliminate fines for overdue returns.
The library partnered with the San Francisco Financial Justice Project within the city treasurer's office to study the elimination of fines and interview libraries around the country that have done away with them.
None of the libraries in the survey saw a decrease in circulation or increase in late returns after eliminating fines.
City officials said library patrons across San Francisco miss return deadlines at similar rates, but people in low-income areas have difficulty in paying the fines.
Roughly 11 percent of the Bayview Library's cardholders are blocked from accessing library materials because of existing fines, more than three times as many as in most high-income locations, according to the city.
"As a city, we need to make sure that we are not placing unnecessary burdens on people to access our public resources," Breed said in a news release. "In this case, the fines and fees are overwhelmingly affecting people in our community from disadvantaged backgrounds."
According to the proposal being considered Thursday, patrons will still be responsible for returning books on time and will need to replace or pay for the value of any materials not returned.
Library fines create about $330,000 in revenue annually, only 0.2 percent of the library's budget and a number that is expected to decrease as digital materials like e-books become more common.
Contra Costa County last month decided to eliminate the fines starting Jan. 1, while San Mateo County made the same move effective Jan. 7.