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San Mateo County Libraries Go Fine-Free!

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Date: January 6, 2019 



Katie Woods  
San Mateo County Libraries  


San Mateo County Libraries go Fine-Free 


San Mateo County Libraries are kicking off the new year by eliminating all fines! Starting tomorrow, January 7th, the library system is going fine-free to ensure that all members of our community have equitable access to library books and materials.   


Studies have shown that late fines can be a significant barrier to library access and drive borrowers away, particularly among individuals with low or fixed incomes. Currently, 8% of all San Mateo County Libraries’ 165,000 cardholders currently have their cards blocked due to fines. In our lower income communities, the number can be as high as 19%.  Furthermore, the growing research has shown that fines do not actually incentivize patrons to return materials on time.  


"It's important to be thoughtful about punitive measures like overdue fines. When we look at the data, it turns out they aren't effective. At the end of the day, we want to get as many books as possible into the hands of as many readers as possible,” said Charles Stone, Library JPA Governing Board Chair. “This is a proud moment for all of us at San Mateo County Libraries as we continue to look for better ways to serve our community through innovative solutions and progressive policies.” 


The new policy builds upon previous successful initiatives implemented by San Mateo County Libraries. In July 2016, the Libraries introduced fine-free library cards for children and teens and last January, launched fine-free library cards for seniors age 62 and older.  


Eliminating late fines is becoming a national trend as more and more libraries across the country are taking the leap to go fine-free.  Libraries that have moved to a more customer focused policy have reported that the elimination of fines results in higher use, increased customer satisfaction, and positive interactions with the community.  


Overdue library fines and fees account for less than one percent of the Libraries’ revenue and the small loss in revenue will likely be offset by the staff savings associated with enforcing them.  


“Eliminating fines makes access equitable for everyone and aligns with the direction and values of San Mateo County Libraries to engage all of our communities and grow a culture of learning and participation,” said Anne-Marie Despain, Director of Library Services.  “When people think of our libraries, we want them to see an inclusive place where everyone is welcome to explore, create and learn.” 


San Mateo County Libraries hopes this new initiative will strengthen our communities by improving access to library programs, services and materials, and that it will welcome more people back to celebrate and enjoy their public library as a place of discovery and opportunity. 


How Fine-Free Works 

If you borrow material that is owned by San Mateo County Libraries (books, DVDs, CDs, audiobooks, and other materials), it will not accrue fees if it is returned after the due date. However, items owned by other libraries in the Peninsula Library System are subject to fines. 


Patrons will still be expected to return library materials on time. Checkout periods on materials will remain the same and reminders will still be sent via email or a phone call. To ensure that library materials are returned, San Mateo County Libraries will continue to charge replacement fees. San Mateo County Libraries also offers easy online and mobile options for renewing materials.  


About San Mateo County Libraries   

San Mateo County Libraries is a Joint Powers Authority that comprises the cities of Atherton, Belmont, Brisbane, East Palo Alto, Foster City, Half Moon Bay, Millbrae, Pacifica, Portola Valley, San Carlos, Woodside, and the unincorporated areas of San Mateo County. San Mateo County Libraries ignite growth through transformative experiences. Visit smcl.org for information about our extensive digital and physical collections, twelve community libraries, Bookmobile, Lookmobile and the 12,000+ workshops, classes, concerts, readings, and other activities offered annually.   




January 2019 STAR Newsletter

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Click here or the image above to read the January 2019 STAR Newsletter.

How Brisbane Became the City of Stars

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The week leading up to the Festival of Lights, we were contacted by the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce, indicating that a reporter from KQED wanted to interview someone in town about the history of the stars.  One of the listeners of their podcast, "Bay Curious", had submitted the question, "Why do residents of the town of Brisbane put up five-pointed stars at the holidays?"  Their reporter, Bianca Taylor, set out to find out.  She was put in contact with then-Mayor Clarke Conway, who gave her a brief interview, and then met her at the Festival of Lights just before the show started for a more in-depth interview.  While in town, she was able to take shots of some of the houses with stars and experience the festive, cheery atmospere that comprised this 32nd Annual Festival of Lights.  Read Bianca's article of how the Brisbane stars came to be, by clicking here.  If you don't already have a star, see about getting one in time for the 2019 holiday season!  They are provided free of charge to all Brisbane residents and businesses who desire one.  Contact Alison Wilson with the Brisbane Chamber at (415) 640-9875.

.Bay Curious

Water Main Replacement Project Update

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The cooperation and patience of our residents on portions of Humboldt Road, Sierra Point Road, Thomas Avenue, and Annis Road have been greatly appreciated.  In September 2018, the City started on its Water Main Replacement Project, and Brisbane’s narrow and windy roads have required full lane road closures to facilitate the work. The project has not concluded, but the recent paving on Humboldt Road should be a welcome sign to the residents that have been most affected so far.

The details of the project, which are on our project web page, include the replacement of aging water mains and installation of new valves and other water infrastructure.  By upsizing some of the existing six inch mains with eight and ten inch pipes, the City was able to increase capacity and provide important fire-flow improvements.  If you have any questions as we move towards completion of this project, you can contact the Public Works Department at (415) 508-2130, or visit the project's web page.

Crews installing the larger pipes earlier during construction.


Crews paved the 1100 block of Humboldt earlier this week after work was completed.

Flags at Half-Staff Through 12/30/18

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Flags in the City have been flying at half-staff since November 30, 2018 in honor of the late President George H.W. Bush and will remain so until sunset on Sunday, December 30, 2018.  To sign up for U.S. half-staff notifications, please click here.