New York City’s public libraries will no longer charge late fees and will waive existing fines for overdue books and other materials, effective immediately as of 5 October 2021.
NYPL Announcement: No More Late Fines, Ever!
On 4 October 2021, The New York Public Library announced a major policy shift: as of today and moving forward, they will no longer charge late fines on overdue circulating materials. In addition, they have cleared all prior late fines and replacement fees from patron accounts so that everyone gets a clean slate at the Library. This, says Tony Marx, NYPL President, is a step towards a more equitable society, with more New Yorkers reading and using libraries, and they are proud to make it happen.
largest public library system in the United States becomes latest to eliminate all late fees
Effective immediately, the New York Public Library system will not charge fines on overdue materials, and all library card holders have had their accounts cleared of any prior late fees or fines, including replacement fees for lost materials, the NYPL announced on Tuesday, in what it called a change intended to level the playing field for all library patrons and encourage use of library resources.
Fines are "an antiquated, ineffective way to encourage patrons to return their books; for those who can afford the fines, they are barely an incentive," New York Public Library President Anthony W. Marx said in a news release.
"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. This is a step towards a more equitable society, with more New Yorkers reading and using libraries, and we are proud to make it happen."
“major step towards making public libraries… accessible to all,” Mayor Bill de Blasio
"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."
The city’s libraries collected about $3.2 million in late fees in 2019. No late fees were collected in 2020 because of the pandemic and libraries made up the lost revenue in other fines.
fines do not effectively incentivise the timely return of materials
The fees, which have been suspended since March 2020, will now officially be terminated. Previously, those with overdue or other extraneous fees totaling $15 or more would have their cards and access blocked until their debt was paid off.
The organisation explained that the 10 branches of the NYPL with the most blocked cards are in “high-needs communities,” with over 30% of blocked cards throughout the city belonging to users under the age of 18.
“Our work, and the work of our peers, show that fines do not effectively incentivise the timely return of materials. If they did, we would never collect fines,” Marx said. “If we’re talking ethics, it is clear to me that the real ethical conundrum lies with pricing our most vulnerable citizens out of using a free, public library system.”
The policy is effective immediately as of 5 October 2021.
The time is now For a more equitable system
Tony Marx, NYPL President, wrote in a press release:
‘Some might say fines teach accountability and ethics. I disagree. New Yorkers are quite reliable and responsible, clearly respecting our collections and the need for them to be available for others to borrow. We can reinforce the importance of returning books without attaching a financial burden that targets those most in need. If we’re talking ethics, it is clear to me that the real ethical conundrum lies with pricing our most vulnerable citizens out of using a free, public library system.
Considering the size of New York City’s three public systems (The New York Public Library covering the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, The Brooklyn Public Library, and Queens Public Library), it has taken time, thoughtful discussion, and careful analysis to take this important step towards a more equitable system. The time is now. We hope to see all New Yorkers at one of our branches soon.’
New York isn’t the only public library system that has implemented such policies
In April 2021, the Boston Public Library system committed to eliminating all late fees after previously nixing overdue fines for minors. The Burbank Public Library system in California wiped all patron accounts clean in July and announced that it would no longer charge late fees, in a move intended to increase access.
"While fines for overdue items may seem like a small burden, they can create a major barrier to service for those who are struggling financially," the Burbank release stated. "Too many people have made the choice to stop using the Library because of inability to pay or fear of accruing fines."
The San Diego Public Library scrapped fines back in 2019, as did the Chicago Public Library. And these increasingly popular initiatives have been proven successful: After the policy change, Chicago public libraries saw an increase in returned materials as well as library card renewals, according to a previous NPR report.
DOUBLE YOUR IMPACT TO SUPPORT THE LIBRARY! MATCH ENDS 15 OCTOBER
Demand for books and digital offerings has increased dramatically over the past year. Millions of New Yorkers, especially children and underserved communities, are counting on us to keep our branches stocked with books and e-books that will help them learn, grow, and thrive. It costs approximately $20 to add a new book to our circulating collections. As a special thank you, you'll receive a custom bookplate sticker! Every dollar you donate by October 15 will go twice as far. Match limit: $350,000