Following the lead of other major U.S. cities like San Francisco and Chicago, New York City’s public libraries announced they are doing away with late fee charges for overdue books and other materials, including waiving existing fines.
The decision provides a clean slate to hundreds of thousands of New York Public Library cardholders. More than half of the 400,000 people who couldn’t check out books because they owed at least $15 in fines live in high-need communities, according to officials. Those patrons will now be able to check books out again.
“Removing this antiquated barrier to access allows libraries to better fulfill their mission: making knowledge and opportunity free and accessible to all,” officials said in a press release.
New York is the largest city to eliminate late fees. Late fees had already been suspended since March 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic and will nol l be erased entirely, elected officials and library systems leaders said in a press release.
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“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. “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.”
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.
New York Public Libraries
The New York Public Library has announced that they are abolishing late fees for books. Above, one of the stone lions outside the front of the New York Public Library Main Branch in Manhattan wears a protective face mask on July 1, 2020. Ted Shaffrey, File/AP Photo
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In 2019, the city’s libraries collected about $3.2 million in late fees. No late fees were collected in 2020 because of the pandemic and libraries made up the lost revenue in other fines.
New Yorkers will still need to pay replacement fees if they lose books or other materials, the library officials said. A book is considered lost after it is overdue for a month, though if it is returned, there would be no fee.
The new policy covers the New York Public Library, with branches in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, as well as the Brooklyn Public Library and the Queens Public Library.
The three library systems join libraries in cities such as San Francisco, Chicago and Philadelphia that no longer charge overdue fines.
“Public libraries strive to be the most democratic institutions in our society, providing all people access to the resources they need to enrich their minds and improve their lives,” Brooklyn Public Library CEO Linda E. Johnson said. “Eliminating late fines means providing truly equitable access to everything the library has to offer.”