KCLS Offers a “Fresh Start” and Steps up its Green Commitments

Spring is here, and the King County Library System is looking forward to a season of renewal in several significant ways.

On May 4, KCLS will launch the Fresh Start for All program, which will clear late fines from all patrons’ accounts. This initiative offers a one-time waiver, unblocking accounts and providing a “fresh start” for renewed access to library services, books and other materials.

Late fines accrue when a patron does not return library materials by the due date, and late fines over $25 lead to a blocked account, limiting access to KCLS’ collection. 

While late fine collection is unpredictable, based on historical activity, KCLS could expect to collect up to $468,000 from cleared accounts. The System received a $208,000 grant from the KCLS Foundation to help offset uncollected revenue for 2022.

The Library System temporarily stopped assessing late fines in March 2020 in recognition of the economic hardships King County residents faced during the pandemic.

Since then, we understand patrons may have accumulated overdue materials. Therefore, we are taking a gradual approach to re-implementing our late-fine policy. Patrons will have until September 15 to return items before fines resume. Late fines for most materials are assessed at 10 cents per item per day, with a maximum of $3 per item.

On September 15, we also are introducing a new automatic-renewal service. Research indicates that up to two-thirds of late fines occur on materials that can be renewed. With the new services, we will renew patrons’ library materials if there are no other holds on them. This will allow materials to be kept longer without accruing late fines. If you choose to, you may opt out of this service.  For more information, please visit kcls.org/freshstart.

Another KCLS effort focuses on renewal of a different kind.

KCLS has enrolled in two of Puget Sound Energy’s (PSE) renewable energy programs, creating a partnership that allows us to power libraries with electricity generated with 100% renewable energy and match natural gas usage with carbon offsets. It is an exciting opportunity for the Library System, enabling us to help address climate change by supporting alternative energy sources.

As part of the Green Power program, the electricity the Library System uses and purchases is matched with so-called renewable energy certificates (RECs), which certify that renewable energy is added to the grid on behalf of the purchaser. The majority of the renewable energy comes from wind, which is naturally replenishing and will not run out, and creates less pollution than fossil fuels. The other alternative energy source, biogas, is a natural by-product commonly released at dairy farms and landfills.

The Carbon Balance program neutralizes the Library System’s natural gas-related carbon footprint. Now KCLS matches natural gas usage with “carbon offsets”, each of which represents one metric ton of carbon reduction. These carbon offsets come from Pacific NW forests, which actively remove carbon from the atmosphere.

The PSE partnership is reducing our carbon footprint, helping to remove from the environment an estimated 19.2 million pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year.

Looking ahead, the partnership also plays an important role in KCLS’ Capital Investment Program (CIP), which includes projects aimed at moving the Library System closer to compliance with Washington State’s Climate Commitment Act and the Strategic Climate Action Plan.

The King County Library System is continually working to improve patron experiences, and is committed to being a positive force in our communities. Libraries have so much to offer residents, online and in-person, and we hope you will visit soon!