While I personally have never been slapped with a late fee from a library, I know some people either can’t always make the time or simply lose track of their borrowed books. Some people find the promise of late fees somewhat intimidating, especially those who live in lower-income situations and literally cannot afford them, prompting them to stay away from libraries altogether. One of the most well-known libraries in the world, the New York Public Library, is looking to make knowledge a little more accessible.
Earlier this week, the New York Public Library announced that going forward, they are completely stopping the practice of applying late fees to those who return books past their due date (though any damaged or lost books will still incur fines). Not only that, but any existing library accounts with late fees on record will have their slates wiped clean, and their holders can return any overdue books with no penalty.
The library hopes that the removal of late fees will go a long way toward “ensuring that all New Yorkers have free and open access to knowledge and opportunity.”
The New York Public Library system is ending late fees forever and has wiped all library cardholders’ accounts of any outstanding fines — a move intended to level the playing field for all library-goers.https://t.co/Royt5oURrk
— NPR (@NPR) October 5, 2021
“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,” New York Public Library President Anthony W. Marx stated. “We must work to ensure that we are adhering to our mission of making knowledge and opportunity available to all, and that means addressing late fines. They are an antiquated, ineffective way to encourage patrons to return their books; for those who can afford the fines, they are barely an incentive. 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.”