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The Boston Public Library is eliminating overdue fines for borrowers under the age of 18.

“In Boston, we believe that free and open access to the Library is crucial for children’s literacy and education,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh said in a statement. “Going ‘fine free’ is a step to level the playing field and become closer to ensuring that everyone has access to the important resources the Library provides.”

The announcement Oct. 25 came after a unanimous vote from the library’s board of trustees to eliminate fines for returning books late for youth library card holders. The policy change will also remove all pending overdue fines and offer a one-time amnesty on replacement costs.

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Youth cardholders will still be required to return overdue materials before checking out more books. And, if a book is lost or never returned, the cardholder will be responsible for replacement costs going forward.

“We are proud to be joining the ranks of libraries across the country who are moving towards being fine-free,” BPL President David Leonard said in the statement. “Too often, fines penalize those least able to afford them and have the unintended effect of turning young people, in particular, away from their libraries. That’s just not what ‘Free To All’ should mean in the 21st century.”

During the 2019 fiscal year, about 90 percent of the more than 150,000 cardholders under the age of 18 were facing fines, according to the library system. This added up to a total youth overdue fine balance of $249,179, less 10 percent of which was collected.


Maria Lovato can be reached at maria.lovato@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @maria_lovato99.