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Amnesty For Little Book Lovers: New York City Libraries Shelve Kids' Late Fees

Oct 19, 2017
Originally published on October 19, 2017 5:51 pm

Olly olly oxen free!

All you young readers in New York City, hide no more: For one day and one day only, the city's three major public library systems are offering unconditional amnesty to everyone age 17 and under who has been charged with late fees. The libraries will also clear the fines of those who are still in high school and 18 or over, if they show up in person by Nov. 2. All money owed for overdue or lost books and DVDs is officially wiped clean for these kids and teens.

This means no more fear of reprimand at branches of the Brooklyn Public Library, Queens Public Library and New York Public Library — which serves the boroughs of Manhattan, Staten Island and the Bronx. More important, it also means all the young readers who have been blocked from further checkouts because they've racked up fines of $15 or more have had the doors of the library reopened to them.

As the New York Public Library makes clear, this is no small deal. The system says nearly 20 percent of the library cards owned by kids and teens have been blocked because of these fines. And they can be an insurmountable obstacle — especially in poorer neighborhoods, where families simply might not have $15 to spare, no matter how compelling that next volume of Harry Potter (or, for those kids reading at a 20th-grade level, perhaps Ulysses instead).

The JPB Foundation, a philanthropy focused on helping low-income communities, has pledged to help with the substantial revenue loss that goes along with this fine forgiveness — which comes out to about $2.25 million all told, according to The New York Times.

But it doesn't last forever. Starting Friday, the standard fine system resumes. Also, sadly, the amnesty does not apply to book lovers who are out of high school but still suffer from a tendency toward tardiness themselves (including — ahem — this envious blogger).

Still, who knows, maybe Thursday's moment of mercy might bring some seemingly long-lost books out of the woodwork — as another forgiveness program did in San Francisco. Given the readers' young age, though, it's unlikely they'll find one to beat the book recovered after 80 years there, or the one recovered after more than 120(!) in England last year.

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