Students With Library Fines Get 'New Chapter'

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The slate is clean.

City students under the age of 18 can now return their overdue library books without any penalties through Oct. 31. The city's three public library systems (the Queens, Brooklyn and New York public libraries) announced the amnesty program today, which they're calling "The New Chapter." Their presidents said their goal was to encourage children and teens to return to the libraries and start reading again without being afraid of having to pay outstanding fines.

When patrons accrue $15 or more in fines, their library borrowing privileges are suspended until the fines are paid. The president of New York Public Library, Anthony W. Marx, said about 35,000 students under the age of 18 have had their library cards blocked within his system alone. Historically, less than 5 percent of those fines are collectible.

"Our priority was students reading more than collecting the fines, 90 percent of which we weren't going to collect anyway based on past history," said Mr. Marx, in explaining the genesis of the "New Chapter" program.

The announcement was made at the Seward Park library on the Lower East Side. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott attended with several elected officials. The "New Chapter" program was subsidized by a $300,000 contribution from the McGraw-Hill Companies.