Waiving Fines to Promote Literacy

When I read this article about the New York Public Library waiving outstanding fines for children and teens in return for reading, it put a big smile on my face. NYPL has found a great way to promote literacy, build goodwill in the community, and encourage kids who may have felt disconnected from the library to come back.

The basic plan is this: if anyone 17 or under is barred from checking out materials due to fines over $15, they can work off their fines by reading. Read 15 minutes, get a dollar off your fines. So simple, yet so effective.

If you need further proof that this is a great way to get your community excited by the library, read the comment by “portals” after the article. Here is part of the comment: “Maybe there is some hope left in this world … the act depicted in this article is such a wonderful breath of fresh air.” I think this is a win-win situation for libraries—we get to bring our kids and teens back into the library, the community gets excited that we’re using this to promote literacy, and we get to reiterate what libraries do and why they’re so important for children and teens. Yes, it means forfeiting some fine revenue, but as the article points out it’s far from guaranteed that the library will actually see that money anyway.

Here’s a final thought from the article that really made me dance a happy dance at my desk: “’We trust our kids,’ Martin said, noting that many city children consider reading a pleasure to be enjoyed rather than a chore to be avoided.” It seems like that’s exactly what we want to promote among our teens at our libraries: A sense of trust and the idea that reading is fun.