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City Libraries Want Young Readers to Turn Over a New Leaf

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Benevolence is the latest thing young patrons can check out with their library cards.

A program called the "New Chapter" that started on Thursday will forgive fines on overdue library books for patrons under age 18 at the New York Public Library (N.Y.P.L.), the Brooklyn Public Library and the Queens Library.

Fees on lost books and DVDs will also be forgiven. The initiative is meant to invite back the 35,000 young readers whose accounts have been blocked due to overdue fees of $15 or more.

"Our priority was students reading more than collecting the fines, 95 percent of which we weren't going to collect anyway based on past history," said the new president of the New York Public Library, Anthony Marx, at a press conference Thursday. "Those folks were not coming to the library because their fines were keeping them away."

At the press conference, Marx said he had visited 65 N.Y.P.L. branches since his appointment in July and that he had fond memories of reading at the Inwood Public Library while his mother ran errands growing up.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the "New Chapter" initiative at a press conference in the young adult section of the Seward Library in Chinatown, flanked by a host of library and elected officials. The fee forgiveness program was made possible by a $300,000 donation from the publisher McGraw-Hill and runs between now and Oct. 31.

In July, the New York Public Library kicked off its inaugural Read Down Your Fines program, which allowed N.Y.P.L. card holders to waive overdue fines by reading books, magazines, newspapers, databases, ebooks, Web sites or audiobooks in or out of the library. Borrowers were able to shave off $1 worth of fines for each 15 minutes they read. The program ended on September 9.

The Queens Library has a similar year-round read-down program for children and adults under age 21. Borrowers get a $1 credit towards their overdue account for each half hour they read.