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New York City public libraries will no longer charge late fees and waive existing fines for overdue books and other materials, city officials announced Tuesday.

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Late fees were already suspended since March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic and will now be abolished permanently, elected officials and leaders of the city’s three library systems said in a news release.

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Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “This announcement is another major step toward making our public libraries, the heart of so many communities, accessible to all.” “By eliminating fines we will be able to serve even more New Yorkers, allowing them to enjoy all the resources and programs that public libraries provide to grow and be successful.”

In 2019, the city’s libraries collected about $3.2 million in late fees. No late fees were charged in 2020 due to the pandemic and libraries lost revenue in other fines.

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Library officials said New Yorkers will still have to pay replacement fees if they lose books or other materials. A book is considered lost after being overdue for a month, although if it is returned, there will be no charge.

The new policy includes the New York Public Library with branches in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, as well as the Brooklyn Public Library and the Queens Public Library.

The three library systems connect libraries in cities such as San Francisco, Chicago and Philadelphia that no longer charge overdue fines.

More than half of the 400,000 New Yorkers whose library cards were blocked because they owed at least $15 fines live in high-need communities, officials said. Those patrons will now be able to check the books.

Brooklyn Public Library CEO Linda E. Johnson said, “Public libraries strive to be the most democratic institutions in our society, giving all people access to the resources they need to enrich their minds and improve their lives. ” “Eliminating late fines means providing truly equal access to everything the library has to offer.”