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Libraries Forgive Kids' Fines

By Jill Colvin | September 23, 2011 7:19am
Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a library fine forgiveness program for city kids Thursday.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a library fine forgiveness program for city kids Thursday.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

LOWER EAST SIDE — Nine-year-old Ivana Cabrera didn’t realize just how fast library fines could add up until it was too late.

The avid-reading fourth grader from Inwood loved to check out books, but was told in June her privileges had been suspended because she owed the library $138.40 in fines.

“I just forgot that they were due,” Cabrera said. “I felt really bad.”

Today Cabrera is in luck, thanks to a new initiative by the New York Public Library to help kids turn the page on their past transgressions.

Until October 31st, kids and teens under the age of 18 will be allowed to go to any library and have their slates wiped clean.

“Kids, it’s school time, time to get serious. Bring your books back. Your fines are waved. We want you reading and we want you in the library,” the NYPL's newly-minted president Anthony Marx announced Thursday at the Seward Park Library on the Lower East Side.

Chinatown's Seward Park Library
Chinatown's Seward Park Library
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Marx said the program is expected to help more than 100,000 kids like Cabrera who've been shut out of the system.

"The libraries are in the business of encouraging reading more than we are in the business of collecting fines,” he said, noting that only about five percent of fines owed to the library are ever repaid anyway.

City officials, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, praised the initiative, which is being funded through a $300,000 grant from McGraw-Hill

“For the kids, this is a brand new fresh start for them,” said City Councilwoman Margaret Chin.

Cabrera said she was "happy and excited" to hear her fines would be erased and already knows exactly what she'll check out first: The second book of the "Dork Diaries."

And she said she's learned her lesson.

“Never forget when books are due," she warned.

Marx estimated that the library is owed about $6 million in overdue fines.

Over the summer, the NYPL held a “Summer Reading” program in which kids could “read down their fines” at a rate of $1 for every 15 minutes they read.