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New York Public Library Will Permanently Cancel Late Fees: 'The Time is Now'

The organization has been waiving late fees since March 2020.


Now that's something to write home about.

Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, New York City has decided to permanently waive late fees and cancel existing fines for those with public library cards.

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.

"This announcement is another major step towards making our public libraries, the heart of so many communities, accessible to all," New York City mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. "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 policy is effective immediately as of October 5.

"During the pandemic, it was clearer than ever that we live in a Tale of Two Cities, with our most vulnerable citizens too often left behind," wrote Tony Marx, NYPL president. "As New York grapples with these inequities, we must ensure that we are adhering to our mission of making knowledge and opportunity available to all — and that means addressing late fines."

The organization 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 incentivize 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 NYPL (which includes branches in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens) collects between $3 and $4 million in late fees each year, Bloomberg reported.

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