New York City is Dewey decimating late fees — and closing the book on millions of dollars of outstanding fines for overdue or lost books.
As of this Tuesday, all late fees and replacement fees owed to the New York Public Library, Queens Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library will be waived.
Late fees have been suspended since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Going forward the three systems plan to eliminate late fees entirely, city and library officials said.
The new policy will “unblock” about 400,000 city residents who owe more than $15 in fines, officials said. About half of those people live in “high-need communities,” officials from the city and all three libraries said in a joint statement. Thirty percent of them are under 17 years old.
Late fines “are an antiquated, ineffective way to encourage patrons to return their books,” said NYPL President Anthony Marx.
“For those who can afford the fines, they are barely an incentive. For those who can’t afford the fines — disproportionately low-income New Yorkers — they become a real barrier to access that we can no longer accept,” he said.
Despite bringing $3.2 million altogether in Fiscal Year 2019, the last year before COVID-19, the libraries have “found ways to absorb the lost revenue from fines,” officials said.
New Yorkers will still have to pay replacement fees for lost items under the new rules, but will not have to pay those fees if they ultimately return the books. Any materials overdue by at least a month are considered “lost.”
New York City’s library systems will be the largest in the country to do away with late fees, joining cities like San Diego, San Francisco and Chicago.
San Diego saw a 4 percent spike in circulation after going “fine-free” in 2018.
“This announcement is another major step towards making our public libraries, the heart of so many communities, accessible to all,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “Eliminating fines will let us serve even more New Yorkers, allowing them to enjoy all of the resources and programs that public libraries offer to grow and succeed.”
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