All three city library systems pledged to dismiss overdue fines piled up on the cards of kids and teens, allowing them to start with a clean slate beginning Thursday.
Officials said about 927,000 youths hold library cards across the city — but more than 160,000 of them have been blocked from checking out books, DVDs, tablets and other materials because they owe fines of $15 or more.
The New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library and Queens Library agreed to forgive roughly $2.25 million in outstanding fines. An undisclosed grant from the JPB Foundation will cover a significant portion of those lost funds.
The program provides for cardholders up to the age of 17. High school students who are older have until Nov. 2 to get their fines cleared in person.
Materials checked out after Thursday and returned late will be subject to fines.
Many of the young patrons barred from checking out library materials because of unpaid fines come from some of the city’s poorest areas, officials said.
“It is unacceptable that families have to choose between dinner and using the library, but we know that this is a reality for many New Yorkers,” said New York Public Library President Tony Marx. “Libraries are for all people, including and especially our most vulnerable citizens. But for many, they are shut out over a few dollars.”
For example, in the Brooklyn Public Library system, 42 percent of blocked youth cards are based in the poorest neighborhoods and only 8 percent of blocked cards ever become unblocked.
The three systems joined together previously in 2011 for a similar amnesty program.
The libraries will hold special events to celebrate the amnesty program. For more information go to nyclibraries.org/newstart.