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New York Public Library says tens of thousands of books have been returned since policy of no late fees was adopted

New York Public Library eliminates late fees 02:16

NEW YORK -- Lingering library fines are a headache, even for the most responsible among us.

New Yorkers can breathe a sigh of relief, even if their book is overdue by decades. CBS2's Jessica Moore went to the Midtown branch on Thursday to see what's behind the elimination of fines.

Branch manager Billy Parrot sorted through a stack of long lost books borrowed from the New York Public Library that have finally come home.

"Due date 1959. This is one that just came in -- 1976. I want to see what was happening that day. Giants won the pennant!" Parrot said with a laugh.

Some are returned with a note of apology, like the one Moore saw tucked inside a book about how to have a successful marriage.

"Funny thing is it didn't support his efforts in his first and only marriage. It failed, so no wonder he hid the books," Parrot said.

Last fall, the library launched a radical new policy -- no more late fees on any book, no matter how long ago it was due.

"Think of the Seinfeld episode," Parrot said. "People love libraries, but when there are late books they feel guilty."

Since the policy launched, more than 21,000 overdue or lost items have been returned in Manhattan, Staten Island, and the Bronx, and more than 51,000 have been returned to branches in Brooklyn. More importantly, people are coming back to the library.

"I know fines did contributed to the income of the library, but it sounds like you were looking at the bigger picture," Moore said.

"Our mission is just to kind of inspire lifelong learning and strengthen communities and advance knowledge," Parrot said.

Since the library did away with fines, about 30% of all newly returned patrons have been from high-need communities.

"Once that barrier is gone and there is a flood of materials back, you realize how much of a barrier it really was," Parrot said.

Resources that are all available for free now, even if you're late.

You'll still have to pay the cost to replace a lost book, but the library said late fines are gone for good. 

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