May 28, 2022

New York Times Article on Large Unpaid Fine Balances and Access to Library Resources

From The NY Times:

When Damaris Triana, then 8, lost several “Little Critter” books that she had borrowed for her sister, the library here fined her $101 — including $40 in processing fees — a bill that was eventually turned over to an agency to collect from her parents.

The $101 is a small part of a whopping $6.8 million in unpaid fines at the San Jose Public Library, an amount that exceeds unpaid fees at some larger cities around the country. It also exceeds other Bay Area cities like Oakland, which has $3 million in outstanding fines, and San Francisco, which has $4.6 million. As we find out more, in San Jose, when the late fee hits $50, the library refers the debt to a collection agency.

As the total of overdue fines has increased, so has the number of cardholders who owe $10 or more and are prohibited from borrowing materials or using the library’s computers. Damaris, now 10, relies on her cousin’s card or uses her school’s library, where there are no fines for late or lost books.


In impoverished neighborhoods, where few residents have broadband connections or computers, nearly a third of cardholders are barred from borrowing or using library computers. Half of the children and teenagers with library cards in the city owe fines. Around 187,000 accounts, or 39 percent of all cardholders, owe the library money, Ms. [Jill] Bourne [Director of Director of Libraries for the City of San José] said.

ALA President Sari Feldman is quoted in the article as are representatives for the Queens and Newark (NJ) public libraries.

Read the Complete Article

See Also: More on San Jose Public Library From March 7, 2016: California: San Jose Library Amnesty Weighed as Unpaid Fines Near $7 Million

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.