Kids get amnesty on $2 million in library fines
Youngsters who would otherwise be barred from borrowing books can work off their late fines by reading more.
This post comes from Lynn Mucken at MSN Money.
Up to 143,000 young scofflaws whose borrowing privileges had been revoked by the New York Public Library for failing to pay late fines have been invited back -- to take out more books.
While this seems like opening the vault and inviting bank robbers to come back and pocket what they missed, library officials stress that reading, not money, is why libraries exist.
"The country is in a pretty tough financial climate right now, and we know that kids more than ever need to use the library because their parents might not be able to afford to buy books or not be able to afford Internet access at home," Jack Martin, the library's assistant director, told Reuters.
"When they have fines on their card, chances are they're not going to come into the library," Martin said. "They're embarrassed to come to the library; they think we'll know they have fines and we'll ask them to leave."
Under NYPL policy, any person owing more than $15 in late fees cannot borrow material, and about 30% of the library's cardholders who are 17 or under have run up bills at least that large. Under the amnesty plan, youngsters -- including those who owe less than $15 -- can sign up for the "Read Down Your Fine" program, check out books and get $1 knocked off their fine for each 15 minutes of reading done through Sept. 9.
No monitoring will be done. "We trust our kids," Martin said.
One kid who wouldn't need monitoring in any case is Rafiyu Afnan Mahmood, who ran afoul of the $15 rule while checking out 10 books at a time. Rafiyu read 666 books in about three months in 2009, according to the New York Daily News.
"In my mind, it's like a movie; it's fun," said Rafiyu, 10, who lives with his mother in a Bronx shelter. He checked out 250 books last summer.
The NYPL is looking at writing off a possible $2 million in unpaid fines, which even Martin agreed is "a serious chunk of change."
Libraries all over the country have been hit by cutbacks, and while fines are a major source of income -- late fees brought in $350,000 for the Louisville Free Public Library last year -- it usually is not cost-efficient to chase down those who won't -- or can't -- pay small fines.
The New York Public Library, however, has failed to pursue one high-profile borrower, despite his mounting late fees.
On Oct. 5, 1789, George Washington, in his first year as president, checked out two books: "Law of Nations," a treatise on international relations, and Vol. 12 of the "Commons Debates," which contained transcripts of debates from Britain's House of Commons.
He never returned them. Adjusted for inflation, his late fee would now be more than $300,000.
Washington, who has not been seen in public since 1799, doesn’t have to worry about his credit rating. The library is putting him in the same category as the kids.
"We're not actively pursuing (Washington's) overdue fines," head librarian Mark Bartlett told the Daily News last year. "But we would be very happy if we were able to get the books back."
More on MSN Money:
[QUOTE] ...library officials stress that reading, not money, is why libraries exist. [/QUOTE]
Oh my God...a voice of reason and common sence from a government offical !
The apocalypse really is coming (any day) for sure.
WOW. Its funny how so many people just latched on to "why are they being taught that they can get away with not returning books on time. Yes, I agree kids need to be taught lessons, but there can also be room for showing some mercy. I was a kid who CONSTANTLY had fines and got in trouble at home for it too. But I loved to read, so I would check out like 10 books at a time because it was the only escape I had from all the stuff I couldn't control in my household.
This kid just brings me back to that time and lets me know the libraries are STILL needed, even for the kids who have computers, its still an asset because every book in the library is FREE. You don't have to BUY a kindle, BUY a book on kindle, and you can't share that kindle book with your friend most of the time. I love technology too, but some of you seem too smart for your own good.
And what about all those people who DO follow the rules, trying their best to return books on time, paying the fines, returning books in the same condition in which they were checked out? Their budget for new book just went down by $2 Million.
Yeah, this is just the NY Public Library doing a little press. Makes them look good and all that touchy feely goodness translates into levy votes next year.
Why couldn't they return the books on time?
> Get the answer to THIS and you'll really learn something.
Gary, it is community service of a sort reading kids style, in which these youngsters have to read more books to pay off the fines....
What a concept of punishment that makes sense.... otherwise known as a thinking person's educated solution to a problem that does not include denying the kids the access to books as they love to read....... gasp.
Perhaps you would perfer them to be denied access to the library?
On the other hand these kids could be out and about getting into serious trouble instead of reading books, expanding their minds.....
Well, it's still not too late to lock them up in one of those private for profit jails for children......yet.
This is a GREAT solution! I had fines that my mother would not help pay when I was a kid. I was not allowed to borrow books from our library anymore. I had to wait until we moved to a new state at 16 to be allowed to borrow from a library again. That's insane! How does that benefit the community?
Our library here in Milwaukee doesn't charge children's library accounts fines at all. Only adults are fined for late returns. It encourages parents to allow their children to choose books.
To the idiot who wants credit card numbers for library accounts: It's a LIBRARY! NOT BLOCKBUSTER. People who can afford that kind of BS will just go swill their Frappacino at Barnes and Noble. And not everyone HAS a credit card. Some of us choose to not make debts and work in...OMG, are you sitting down?-CASH!
By the way ...... that is one beautiful library. It must be a joy to go there and even just wander amoung those books...... the reading tables with those lamps are nothing to sneeze at either.... WOW....sigh
wow 15 dollars fine and cant borrow no more?? well my local library has a policy that if the fines
reaches 5 dollars you cant borrow no more until its paid. But you can still read books at the library and use time on computer. There is a limit time use for the computer however its 2 ( 45 minutes) time limit per day. So working off the fines by reading more books to bring down the fine seems okay but I doubt that will work because not everyone will be happy with it. Others have returned the books on time and they pay their fine. Personally parents should be held responsible for the late fees and know to avoid the late fees is to return the books before due date simple solution. Its common sense in the first place.
While I like the idea of waiving fines for those kids who are just addicted to reading, I have to wonder how the "Read down your fine" program is going to work for those kids who continue to check out books and keep them forever. Do you get credit for an overdue book by checking out more overdue books? I'm confused at how this is going to work.
Maybe what would be best is a "Read Down your fine" program that keeps the books in the library by not allowing those kids who still have fines to leave the library with the books they choose to read. They can stay in the library and read down the fine by their time spent reading in the library, but if they ever want to leave with a checked out book again, they have to read long enough to "work off" the fine first. Of course, if it were up to me: I probably would have started with an actual "Work off your fine" program that would take in each kid who owes more than 15 dollars for about an hour and have them help me re-stack the shelves with library books by dewey decimel system. That would be a good "work off your fine" program. Then their slate would be clean to check out more books.
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