Brooklyn Public Library, New York Public Library (which serves the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island), and Queens Public Library have all announced they are canceling late fees, following suit of other cities like San Francisco and Chicago, and making New York City's library system the "biggest in the country to eliminate fines." This policy change will include not just books, but other materials; additionally, any current late fines are now cleared, giving all library-card-holding New Yorkers a clean slate.

While you'll no longer owe a fee for a late return, you are still encouraged to return any late material currently in your possession to your local branch. And you'll want to do that, because while late fees are being eliminated, replacement fees for lost books are not.


Here's what you need to know, per the Libraries:

● New Yorkers of all ages will no longer need to pay any late fines on overdue materials

● In the past, library cards were blocked if they accrued $15 or more in fines; that will no longer be the case

● New Yorkers will still need to pay replacement fees if they lose material. Materials are considered lost after being overdue for about one month. If materials are returned, however, no fees will apply

● Cards will be blocked from borrowing additional physical materials if patrons accrue replacement fees (thresholds differ per system); note that even with a block on their cards, patrons can still access computers, e-books, and other digital services.


Fines have been a part of the library system since the turn of the 20th century, and according to a press release, "Removing this antiquated barrier to access allows libraries to better fulfill their mission: making knowledge and opportunity free and accessible to all."

In 2019 we reported that around 50,000 delinquent New York City library patrons had been reported to Unique Management Services, "a debt collection agency that works with all three of the city’s public library systems... Individuals handed over to Unique typically have fines that have accrued past $25 or $50."

Even those who don't rise to the level of being reported to a debt collection agency would have their library cards blocked if they accrued more than $15 in fines. According to the press release, "at the time of [this] announcement, about 400,000 New Yorkers would fit into this category, more than half in high-need communities."

Each library system said the highest percentage of blocked cards are in high needs communities, and Brooklyn Public Library points out that their branches with the most blocked cards "are in neighborhoods where more than 20% of households live below the poverty level and most have an average median household income under $50K."

The NYPL shared this list of branches citywide, which shows the highest percentage of cards that would be blocked:

  • Stone Avenue (East New York), Brooklyn - 24%
  • Morrisania, Bronx - 22.5%
  • Baisley Park, Queens - 20.2%
  • Arverne, Queens - 19.98%
  • Sedgwick, Bronx - 19.9%
  • Tremont, Bronx - 19.8%
  • Far Rockaway, Queens - 19.39%
  • 125th Street, Manhattan - 19.1%
  • South Jamaica, Queens - 18.96%
  • New Lots, Brooklyn - 18.8%

NYPL President Anthony W. Marx has been calling for a fine-free library system for years, and in 2017, when he wrote an op-ed about them, the three systems cleared nearly $2.25 million in library debts with a one-time grant from the JPB Foundation, this gave a clean slate to around 161,000 children.

“During the pandemic, it was clearer than ever that we live in a Tale of Two Cities, with our most vulnerable citizens too often left behind,” Marx said about finally eliminating fines. "For those who can’t afford the fines— disproportionately low-income New Yorkers—they become a real barrier to access that we can no longer accept. This is a step towards a more equitable society, with more New Yorkers reading and using libraries, and we are proud to make it happen."

While fines have been suspended throughout the pandemic, in Fiscal Year 2019, the three library systems collected about $3.2 million in late fines.

Find out more about your specific library's new policy at: bklynlibrary.org, nypl.org, and queenslibrary.org.