The New York Public Library system has joined the Boston Public Library System, Philadelphia Public Library System, and the Burbank Public Library System in nixing late fees, effective immediately. This includes erasing all the fines that library cardholders have accrued in the past for overdue or lost materials.
The change, which was implemented in an effort to level the playing field for all library patrons while encouraging more people to make use of library resources, was announced last Tuesday.
According to New York Public Library President Anthony W. Marx, late fees are “an antiquated, ineffective way to encourage patrons to return their books; for those who can afford the fines, they are barely an incentive.”
On the flip side, for low-income New Yorkers, the fines “become a real barrier to access that we can no longer accept,” Marx adds. “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.”
The movement to eradicate late fees has proven to be successful in the past. For instance, when the Chicago Public Library eliminated fines back in 2019, public libraries experienced a surge in returned materials and library card renewals. Hopefully, more library systems see the value of making such a change and will take the necessary steps to make library resources more equitable for all.