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Elimination of youth library card fees at Boston Public Library

BOSTON – Friday, October 25, 2019 – Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced that the Boston Public Library (BPL) is eliminating overdue fines for youth under the age of 18 who have a Boston Public Library card. The announcement follows a unanimous vote from the BPL Board of Trustees to eliminate overdue fines which in turn will also remove barriers and expand access to the important services and resources offered at the library for all youth in the City of Boston.

“The accrual of fines puts a barrier between youth and the Library that can prevent future use of its materials, programming, and resources,” said Mayor Walsh. “In Boston, we believe that free and open access to the Library is crucial for children’s literacy and education. Going ‘fine free’ is a step to level the playing field and become closer to ensuring that everyone has access to the important resources the Library provides.”

Under this new policy change, which becomes effective November 1, 2019, BPL will remove all pending overdue fines and replacement costs for youth library card holders. Youth card holders will not face monetary penalties for returning books late, although they will still be required to return any overdue books in order to check out additional materials. While youth card holders will no longer incur fines for late returns, they will still be responsible for replacement costs if a book is lost or not returned.

With this move, the Boston Public Library now joins the five percent of public libraries that do not charge late fines for youth materials, according to a recent Library Journal survey. The same survey reported that, on average, only about 14 percent of borrowed materials are returned late. Previously, at the Boston Public Library, the maximum overdue fine a youth card holder could accrue was $2.50 per book.

“We’re proud to be joining the ranks of libraries across the country who are moving towards being fine-free,” said BPL President David Leonard. “Too often, fines penalize those least able to afford them and have the unintended effect of turning young people, in particular, away from their libraries. That’s just not what ‘Free To All’ should mean in the 21st century. Eliminating youth fines reflects core values of the BPL – to be accessible, to be welcoming, and to ensure we are promoting youth reading, not preventing it.”

In FY19, the Library collected a total of $24,069 in overdue fines from BPL cardholders under the age of 18, representing less than ten percent of the total youth overdue fine balance for that fiscal year, which was approximately $249,179. That data indicates that about 90 percent of BPL cardholders below the age of 18 are facing fines – and therefore barriers – to continued use of the Library.

“Libraries are our societies’ most trusted public institutions – we are in the business of opening doors, not creating barriers for children and families,” said Susan Benton, President & CEO of the Urban Libraries Council, which monitors and reports on libraries going ‘fine free’ through an interactive map on its website. “By joining libraries across North America in eliminating overdue fines for children and teen readers, Boston Public Library is taking a leading stance in ensuring all city youth have equitable opportunities to pursue their dreams.”

More than 150,000 youth hold BPL library cards, while thousands more benefit from the BPL’s free programsHomework Help sessions, annual summer reading challenge, and other outreach programs. In January, the Youth Services department welcomed a new Youth Outreach Librarian, responsible for extending BPL services and programs into the community, especially to underserved and underrepresented populations. The Youth Outreach Librarian works collaboratively with partners including South Cove Community Health Center, the Floating Hospital for Children, and Boston Children’s Hospital.

The Library has also expanded its outreach partnerships with organizations serving teens. BPL now provides services to not only the Department of Youth Services and the McKinley School, but also to Youth On Fire, a drop-in center for homeless and street-involved youth ages 14-24; Bridge Over Troubled Waters, which provides shelter and services for teens who are experiencing homelessness; and Succeed Boston, providers of counseling and intervention for Boston Public Schools students.

Since 2016, programming at the Children’s Library has more than tripled, while every month, more than 2,800 teens access and use Teen Central. To learn more about the BPL’s offerings for kids and teens, please visit bpl.org/kids and bpl.org/teens.

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