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San Diego Forgives $2 Million Worth Of Library Overdue Book Fees

San Diego's forgetful book borrowers are in luck.

The city's library system is pardoning nearly 133,000 residents who neglected an essential tenet of public libraries' code, to return borrowed books, officials announced this week.

The forgiven overdue fines would have amounted to "more than $2 million in library fines," member station KPBS reports. The city stopped charging daily late fees in July of last year, so the accumulated millions don't include the last nine months.

More than half of the tardy borrowers had racked up late charges of more than $10, which meant they were blocked from checking out any more books.

At several libraries in low-income neighborhoods, more than 40 percent of patrons are barred from checking out books because of outstanding fees, according to a press release from City Council Member Chris Cate.

"I felt that banning a child from our public libraries due to an overdue book fine is unreasonable and contradictory to the mission of our libraries," Cate said about the reasons behind the forgiveness campaign.

Library Director Misty Jones agrees.

"Libraries are known as the 'great equalizers' because we provide equal access for all patrons, regardless of their socio-economic status," she told KNSD-TV. "Wiping the slate clean of outstanding fines means welcoming back many of the under-served patrons who most need our services."

Blocks on would-be readers are now being removed along with the late fees, but people who don't return their books at all will still be charged a replacement fee. Some of the late fines dated to at least 2005, KPBS reports.

The city has another good reason for forgiving fines: The fees bring in less money than it costs the libraries to collect them.

"We found that we brought in about $600,000 in fines a year and it cost us $1.2 million to collect those fines," Jones said, according to KPBS.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.