Dear Queens Public Library Community,
During a visit to one of our libraries several years ago, I watched an eight-year-old boy, accompanied by his older sister, set down a stack of books on the circulation desk and hand his library card to a librarian to check them out. He looked as if he could not wait to go home, devour every one of them, and return for more.
I then overheard the conversation between him and the librarian, who was explaining the reason he could not borrow the books. He had accrued too many late fines on his account and could no longer use his card. As I walked away from them, I knew the librarian would find a way to help this child, but his disappointment was still heartbreaking.
So many stories like this one have played out in our libraries countless times over the years. I had always believed that the practice of placing fines on overdue books taught responsibility, accountability, and respect for others. On that day, I realized these fines instead tell certain people they do not belong. Late fines generate fear and anxiety among those who can least afford to pay, preventing them from opening library accounts, checking out books, or even coming through our doors. This is not only unacceptable, but totally inconsistent with our mission.
I could not be more delighted to share with you that today, after careful planning and consideration, Queens Public Library will permanently stop charging late fines and will clear all existing late fines on customers’ accounts. While you will still owe the replacement fees for lost or damaged items, those fees will be erased as soon as the items are returned.
Today is an outstanding day for New York City. I am grateful to our Board of Trustees for their leadership and vision, to our staff for their work in ushering through this landmark initiative, and to our partners at the Brooklyn and New York Public library systems for their collaboration in eliminating late fines as of today as well. I also thank all of you, the people we serve, for sharing in the great promise of public libraries—that anyone, no matter their circumstances, can have free access to sources of learning and ideas that will help them find success and joy in their lives.
For more information and answers to your questions about our new policy, please visit QPL's Say Goodbye to Late Fines webpage. We are thrilled to take this important step in our ongoing work to create a library system that is equitable and open to everyone, and we look forward to welcoming even more New Yorkers to take part in everything the Library has to offer.
Dennis M. Walcott
President and CEO
Queens Public Library