During a six week fine forgiveness program between January 3 and February 14, the San Francisco Public Library recovered an incredible 699,563 books, CDs, DVDs, and other long overdue materials valued at $236,000 while forgiving even more — $329,797— in fines.
It's the first such amnesty period since 2009, when just 30,000 items were recovered, and librarians are cheering — quietly — the success of the program. Accounts for patrons with overdue fees of more than $10.01 are frozen and cardholders have their borrowing privileges removed. That's true of about 55,000 accounts, but thanks to the fine forgiveness period, more than 5,000 of them were restored.
"The program is something we're all very excited about because our mission is to provide free and equal access to everybody," Library Public Relations Officer Katherine Jardine told SFist in anticipation of the program, "and unfortunately the populations that most need the library have a barrier to access when a ten dollar fine is on their account. Something like a fine forgiveness program helps us continue to serve the people who need us the most."
Over the six weeks, some downright paleolithic books were miraculously returned, including one text that was 100 years overdue. That was returned to the library by the great-grandchild of the person who originally borrowed it — a novel, ironically called 40 Minutes Late. The book, along with 18 other rare and long-overdue items, is on display in the Main Library atrium.