Tony Marx, NYPL President:
The New York Public Library is proud to announce a major policy shift: as of today and moving forward, we will no longer charge late fines on overdue circulating materials. In addition, we have cleared all prior late fines and replacement fees from patron accounts so that everyone gets a clean slate at the Library. 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.
Some might say fines teach accountability and ethics. I disagree. New Yorkers are quite reliable and responsible, clearly respecting our collections and the need for them to be available for others to borrow. We can reinforce the importance of returning books without attaching a financial burden that targets those most in need. 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.
We sure could use more institutions that think and act this way, and I hope more follow in the footsteps of the NYPL.1 Punishing those who are least capable of paying something like a library fine, which is not an effective motivator, is not a kind or, as Mr. Marx says, equitable action to take.
Access to knowledge should never come with a price tag.