Libraries are one of the great civic institutions—places that are free and open to everybody and also full of books. But kids, especially from poorer backgrounds, can quickly find their cards locked due to late feeds. And so New York City libraries are declaring amnesty.
That’s according to the New York Times. The move encompasses the area’s three systems, the NYPL, the Queens Library and the Brooklyn Public Library, which will wipe the slate clean for anybody under 17. The move is supported by a grant from the JPB Foundation, which will chip in $2.25 million to support the move. For now, it’s a one-time move and the penalty clock will immediately start again.
Currently, it takes just $15 in late fees to freeze your card, and there are 160,000 kids affected, many of them in the city’s poorer neighborhoods. You can imagine how tough it can be for a kid with busy caregivers to return their books on time—yours truly once racked up an embarrassing debt to the Queens Public Library while a young single woman who could have easily walked her ass over to her local branch. (That system does, it should be noted, already have a program that allows young people to “read down their fines.”)
The Times notes that some other library systems around the country have made similar moves, and District of Columbia hasn’t charged kids younger than 19 since 2015. Said a spokesman: “We didn’t want the reason you didn’t come to the library to be fear that you owed money.”