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NYC libraries will forgive late fees for children, teens

NEW YORK — About 160,000 children throughout New York City are unable to take books out of city libraries because of accumulated late fees; that’s all changing Thursday.

The New York Public Library, which serves Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island; the Queens Library and the Brooklyn Library are all wiping the slate clean for library patrons age 17 and below. Their late fines will be automatically cleared. High school students ages 18 and up can also have their fines cleared in person through Nov. 2.

NYPL charges children 10 cents a day for an overdue book and library patrons lose the privilege of taking out books if they rack up $15 in late fees. Children and teens with library cards have accumulated about $2.25 million in late fees.

Nearly half of those with suspended cards come from high-needs neighborhoods.

“It is unacceptable that families have to choose between dinner and using the library, but we know that this is a reality for many New Yorkers,” said NYPL President Tony Marx. “This is a real issue in our city and across our country. Libraries are for all people, including and especially our most vulnerable citizens. But for many, they are shut out over a few dollars.”

Library officials don’t want to block people from taking out books over late fees, but they need the fine revenue for library operations, including staff, books, and programming.

The JPB Foundation, a philanthropy that works on social issues, is underwriting the Oct. 19 amnesty on late fees. Items due after Oct. 19 will continue to accrue fines.

Adults with suspended accounts will not have their book-borrowing privileges restored.

New York’s library systems aren’t the first to shake things up in the world of late fees. A library system in Illinois got rid of late fees. One California system stopped their late fees for kids and teens.