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New York Public Library Cancels Late Fees Forever

By Lori Perkins

I woke up to this staggering email from the President Anthony “Tony” Marx of the NYPL. I had to read it twice, because it was so simple and yet so powerful.

“The New York Public Library is proud to announce a major policy shift: Beginning today, all late fines have been eliminated going forward—and all prior late fines and replacement fees have been cleared—so that everyone gets a clean slate at the Library.

Research shows that fines are not effective in ensuring book returns—New Yorkers are quite reliable and responsible, clearly respecting our collections and the need for them to be available for others to borrow. But, unfortunately, fines are quite effective at preventing our most vulnerable communities from using our branches, services, and books. That is the antithesis of our mission to make knowledge and opportunity accessible to all, and needed to change. As New York grapples with the inequities laid bare by the pandemic, it is all the more urgent that we ensure the public library is open and freely available to all.”

Library fines were the bane of my childhood and teen existence, because libraries were the primary means by which I read books (I used to also buy paperbacks in the supermarket—mostly true crime back then—but those days are long gone). As a young mother, I rented VHS tapes for my son to watch and would race back to the library to get them back on time with my stroller in tow.

This is such a positive, liberating and reading-friendly initiative. I hope every major city in America follows suit. Bravo!


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