Chicago Public Library to forgive fines

August 6, 2012

Jewell Washington

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(Flickr/Shawn Econo)

The Chicago Public Library says borrowers owe $1.4 million dollars in unpaid fines from overdue materials, but now the library is looking to wipe the slate clean.

That's good news for Victoria Washington, who loves books so much she said sometimes she has a hard time returning them to the library.

“The person at the front told me that I owed twenty-one bucks so I just ran and played it off and was like I just gotta get this paid off,” she said, “but the bad part is that I went out and had McDonalds somewhere and I didn’t even pay my books.”

But starting August 20th the Chicago Public library will erase her late fines during a three-week amnesty program.

Coinciding with the astronomical phenomenon taking place on August 31, the library is naming the program the “Once in a Blue Moon Amnesty,” reinforcing the fact that it is not a regular occurrence.

The last time it was this forgiving was in 1992.

 The library collects about $2 million dollars annually from fines but the amnesty program aims to get books and patrons back. This WBEZ reporter has a few overdue books herself and hefty fines to match.

“Fifty-four dollars and ninety eight cents in library fines,” according to Leland Elder with Harold Washington Library, “you must have seven or eight books checked out.”

Elder assured me that thanks to the new program even I will have an opportunity for a fresh start.  

The amnesty will apply to all patrons and if an item has been lost, they will be responsible for paying only the replacement cost.