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Chicago mayor moves to eradicate overdue library fees

September 30, 2019

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago is about to become the largest U.S. city to eliminate overdue fees for library books and other items in an effort to remove barriers that deter youth and low-income patrons.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Monday that the Chicago Public Library will also erase any outstanding overdue fees. The city’s current library system blocks card holders when they owe a fine of $10 or more.

Full Coverage: Libraries

The new system begins Tuesday.

Lightfoot framed the policy change as her latest attempt to help people who have the hardest time paying off their fines.

We’re not as concerned about the economics, Lightfoot said of the new policy. “This is about educating folks, giving them access to learning, having a safe space where people can come and learn.

Library officials said one in every three library card holders in the library’s South District is banned from withdrawing items. Only one of every six library card users in the North District is also locked out.

One in five of those blocked cards belongs to a child under the age of 14.

With this new system, books that are checked out will automatically renew up to 15 times, unless a hold is placed on them, according to a Chicago Public Library news release. Misplaced items will be tagged as “lost” in the system and accounts will be charged for replacement costs, if items are not turned in a week after due date. The charge will be cleared when the items are returned.

The elimination of library fines follows similar changes to fines and fees related to tickets and city vehicle stickers.

“The bold reforms we’re taking to make the Chicago Public Library system fine-free and forgive city sticker debt will end the regressive practices disproportionately impacting those who can least afford it, ensure every Chicagoan can utilize our city’s services and resources, and eliminate the cycles of debt and generational poverty because of a few mistakes,” Lightfoot said in a news release.

Detroit and Phoenix announced similar plans this month.

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