This week, the New York Public Library is offering free programs and activities at available branches in the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island. Library branches will give away 15,000 draw-string bags full of school supplies including notebooks, USB drives and pencil cases with rulers, pens and pencils.
Welcome Week will last until Oct. 23. Some Welcome Week activities include outdoor storytimes, crafts and writing workshops.
The special week follows New York Public Library’s elimination of late fines. The library system removed late fees and cleared all prior outstanding fines to make libraries more accessible to all. The Brooklyn Public Library, New York Public Library and Queens Public Library became the latest and largest public library systems to eliminate late fines, which have been in place since the three systems were created at the turn of the 20th century.
“The library hopes to encourage New Yorkers to visit their local libraries, bring back their books, fine free, check out some new ones and take home some goodies,” said Angela Montefinise, senior director of communications and marketing at The New York Public Library, in an email.
Welcome Week will give visitors the chance to see all the library has to offer and gives New Yorkers the chance to return all of their outstanding books without fear of charges.
“It is such a difficult time across the board, but Welcome Week is our way of saying the library is still here for you and when you’re ready, ‘welcome back,’ and welcome back in every way, whether it’s digitally or in person, and there are no fines anymore, so even better to come back,” said Ricci Yuhico, managing librarian for young adult services.
Data shows late fines are not an effective incentive for book returns. Without the decision to eliminate fees, “about 150,000 New Yorkers in The New York Public Library system would have had their library cards blocked because they accrued $15 or more in fines. Countless others wouldn’t even enter a branch for fear of the financial burden,” according to a press release from the New York Public Library.
Following the historic announcement on October 5, the library saw a 50% increase in new library cards on the day of the announcement over an average day, and a 25% increase on October 6. October 5 was also one of the highest days in 2021 for library card sign-ups, according to the release.
Welcome Week special events
All week long, attendees can participate in a scavenger hunt at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library on 40th Street and Fifth Avenue. The hunt is tied to the Polonsky Exhibition of The New York Public Library’s Treasures. The Treasures exhibit is a free, permanent exhibition of over 250 rare objects from the Library’s research collections.
Scavenger hunters can visit the greeter desk at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library, get a checklist and head-off to find the Treasures-related items hidden within the library’s shelves.
The scavenger hunt helps kids and teens learn about history and become familiar with the new library space. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library was recently renovated. One of the renovations includes a new recording studio for teens.
“We look forward to being able to expand programs,” said Louise Lareau, managing librarian for the children’s center. “We were thrilled in mid-July when we were able to start doing in-person programs, and we are thrilled that people are coming back. It’s getting busier and busier which is really nice.”
On Oct. 19, during the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library’s weekly storytime for kids, Aihui Liu, the senior children’s librarian, read four books to a group of ten kids. She said Welcome Week is helping more people become aware of the library’s programs, as the group she read to was larger than normal.
Perpetua Muchabaiwa and her daughter visited the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library for the first time on Tuesday. They listened to the books during storytime and said they loved it. It was also Javier Suarez and his daughter’s first time visiting the branch.
“It was amazing. She really loved it” Suarez said. It was a good time for his daughter to enjoy herself and engage with other kids and for parents to relax, he said.
After the storytime, the kids received a take-home Halloween-themed craft and a Welcome Week goodie bag that was customized for kids their age. The bag included a small book, bubbles and a lion mask for kids to decorate.
“As we all move forward towards a more hopeful next chapter, the Library is here to support all New Yorkers with free books, wi-fi, classes, and services,” said New York Public Library President Anthony W. Marx in the release. “The time is now, especially with the elimination of late fines, a serious barrier to access for far too many, for us to reach out and welcome as many New Yorkers as possible. We hope to see many, many new and familiar faces during Welcome Week, and look forward to playing a crucial role in New York City’s continued recovery.”