Public libraries | Fines | Borrowing privileges
Library books are free, until they aren’t: Patrons who rack up $15 in late fees at the city’s public libraries are blocked from taking out more books until the fine is paid.
Among those with suspended privileges are 160,000 children, most of them from the city’s poorest neighborhoods, who cannot afford to pay.
“Learning is a right. Reading brings you to new worlds,” said Octavia Loving, a 17-year-old student at Special Music High School, as she stood amid the stacks at Countee Cullen Library in Harlem, one of the neighborhoods with the highest concentration of children with blocked cards, according to library officials. “They shouldn’t block us from reading because of money.”
On Thursday, the city’s three library systems — the New York Public Library, which serves Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island; the Queens Library; and the Brooklyn Public Library — will forgive all fines for children 17 and under and unblock their cards. The one-time amnesty is being underwritten by the JPB Foundation, a philanthropy that supports civic causes, which will make up $2.25 million of the shortfall in revenue from the forgiven fines.
The amnesty “is a dramatic way to message to kids and young adults that we want you back, and we want you reading,” said Anthony W. Marx, the president of the New York Public Library. The forgiveness is not conditional on returning any overdue books or DVDs. “We want you to be responsible, but we don’t want to penalize you just because you are too poor to pay the fines.” Read more...