Free printing costs King County libraries $1 million each year

The library board is considering reducing the number of free pages from 75 a week to 10.

Starting early next year the amount of free pages which can be printed at King County libraries may be significantly reduced.

The King County Library System (KCLS) board is considering reducing the amount of pages people can print for free each week from 75 black and white pages down to 10. Library system spokesperson Julie Acteson said the reduction could be enacted in the first quarter of 2020. The KCLS spends about $1 million each year of a $125 million budget on printing costs, including ink, paper and printer maintenance.

“People are flocking to our libraries to print, so that ever-increasing volume has really started to become unsustainable,” she said. “A million dollars is a lot of money.”

The preliminary 2019 KCLS budget narrative said the system will be implementing a pay-to-print system to encourage cloud-based options instead of paper printing. Acteson said in 2017 there were more than 15 million black and white pages printed, and more than 2.5 million color pages were printed at no cost to the user. That increased to 18.4 million black and white pages, and 3 million color pages in 2018.

Library system members currently receive $11.25 each week in credit to use to print. Color pages cost 50 cents, and black and white pags cost 15 cents each. Starting in 2020, the weekly allowance could be reduced to $1.50. Acteson said many other library systems do not offer free printing.

“There’s a lot of libraries that for a long time have been charging to print and offering no free copies,” she said.

Acetson said the move likely would reduce paper consumption at the library system. There have not been discussions about how much money it may save the library system, or where those funds would go.

At the same time, the library system also will be installing self-service kiosks at every library where patrons can put money on printing accounts, pay fines and conduct other transactions. The kiosks already have been installed in five libraries — Redmond, Auburn, North Bend, Enumclaw and Greenbridge. Every library should have one by the end of the year.

Library staff will not be reduced once the kiosks are installed, Acetson said.

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