Forgot to return a library book or DVD? Got library fines that you are reluctant to pay? The solution is here. Programs at libraries in Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island are helping borrowers to wipe the slate clean of their overdue library fines — if they just read.
The program, which runs through September 9, allows any NYPL card holder to waive overdue fines from his or her account at the library's branches in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island. Borrowers lose $1 of fines for each 15 minutes they read a book, magazine, newspaper, database, ebook, Web site or audiobook in or out of the library.
The only borrowers excluded from the program are those who owe more than $1,000 or those who are barred from the library.
The program is meant to encourage children and teens to keep up with their reading in the summer without having to worry about fines they were not able to pay off, according to the director of the program, Jack Martin.
Although there is no such program at the Brooklyn Public Library, the Queens Library has had a similar program in place for children and adults under age 21 for a decade. The year-long program allows borrowers to get $1 credit for each half hour they read. Readers can keep going until they have paid off all their fines.
The associate director of the Queens Library, Joanne King, said that the program allowed it to re-establish an important relationship with young readers. She recalled it made a difference at a library in the Rockaways that gave Read Down credit to students who came to the library for a college-prep sessions.
"We even had a young woman who came back to the library after her college graduation, hugged the staff member ... and told her that if she hadn't been forced into going to those prep sessions, she would never have stayed in school, graduated and gone on to be a teacher herself," King said.
The library systems said the desire to reconnect with borrowers outweighed the financial losses of allowing readers to waive their unpaid fines. Libraries have had to save funds recently by reducing operating hours at some branches and by putting a stop on adding books to their collections.
"Read Down Your Fees does not cost the library much money because the children could not pay the fee they owed anyway — those funds are lost," King said.