Amnesty Offered to Library Scofflaws

By Patty Wetli | Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Amnesty should see thousands of books returned to the stacks. Credit: tina.rina

You know that library book that’s been overdue since forever? The one you waited so long to return that you’re underwater on the fine, the fee greater than the book’s cover price. Go ahead and hang onto it for a couple more weeks. Because Chicago Public Library is about to wipe the slate clean.

For the first time in 27 years, CPL is offering a blanket amnesty to patrons with overdue materials. The occurrence is so rare, they’re labeling it the “Once in a Blue Moon Amnesty.” (The last amnesty, in 1992, only absolved juveniles.)

From August 20 through September 7, late fines will be waived on all books, CDs, DVDs and other materials, no matter how long overdue. If you’ve flat out lost materials, CPL will only charge you the replacement cost.

The Library collects approximately $2 million annually in fines. So why, given CPL’s budget woes, is the system willing to forgo revenue? They say it’s for the kids, timed to coincide with the beginning of the school year. But mostly they just want their stuff back (as a reluctant lender, we can identify): The outstanding items are worth more than the collective fees, plus the Library will be able to loan these materials out once again. In 1985 during a one-week amnesty for all library patrons, CPL recovered 77,000 books.

It’s time to give someone else a crack at The Da Vinci Code.

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