New York Public Library eliminates late fees
New York City's three largest public libraries are closing the book on overdue library fines.
The New York Public Library system announced today that it is eliminating late fines in order to become accessible for all New Yorkers.
The new policy applies to books and other circulating materials, ending the process that the system says did not incentivize returns while also creating barriers to access for many of the city's most vulnerable residents.
Prior to the new policy going into effect, 400,000 library accounts that had $15 or more in fines were blocked, and more than half of those people live in high-needs communities, according to the library system, and 30% of those blocked cards belonged to kids or teenagers.
"Some might say fines teach accountability and ethics. I disagree," says NYPL President Anthony Marx. "We can teach New Yorkers to be responsible and return their items so others can use them without a financial burden. No one can learn responsibility at the library if they can't use the library."
Marx says the system made a careful analysis to take this important step toward a more equitable library system.
Though fees have been eliminated, New Yorkers will still need to pay replacement fees if they lose material, the library system says. Materials are considered lost after being overdue for about one month. If the material is returned, no fees will apply.
Cards can still be blocked from borrowing additional physical materials if patrons accrue replacement fees, though even with a block on a card, New Yorkers can still access computers, e-books, and other digital services.
Over 300 library systems in North America have waived fines, either fully or partially, according to the Urban Library Council. The library system says it is now the largest collective system to do so.
NYPL notes that after years of exploring the change, with granting two fine amnesties in the last 10 years and holding several fine-free borrowing programs, city libraries saw almost no increase in lost materials.
The new policy begins immediately, and the system will be welcoming patrons back the week of Oct. 18 with free giveaways and special programs.