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CUNY Libraries Forgiving Late Fees

The Brooklyn College library is offering students a chance to return overdue items before the semester ends. PHOTO/ www.macaulay.cuny.edu
The Brooklyn College library is offering students a chance to return overdue items before the semester ends. PHOTO/ www.macaulay.cuny.edu

By Nathaniel Butler

Published: November 23rd, 2016

From November 14 to November 23, CUNY is offering a window of opportunity to return all overdue books and have overdue fines forgiven, with a few particular restrictions, such as reserve books and special collections. But what gave birth to the idea of the fines being completely waived in the first place?

“Sometimes the books don’t come back and other students are looking for them,” said Bridget Nowicki, an office assistant at the Brooklyn College library. “If someone takes it and doesn’t bring it back, it’s not there for other students to find. They are CUNY books, not just Brooklyn College books, they belong to all of CUNY.”

The incentive of the possible return of CUNY property without consequence, might sound too good to be true. But surprisingly, this isn’t the first time CUNY offered such a program. According to Nowicki, Brooklyn College began the amnesty program many years ago. Nowicki states that the program is a widespread agreement among all of the different CUNY schools, in the sense of setting up a time and giving the program proper advertisement around the beginning or end of a semester.

“We’re keeping track of how much money’s being waived, how many books are coming back,” said Nowicki. “But I think it’s going to pick up because people are coming in and saying they heard about it; that’s why they’re coming back with their books. “

Nowicki speaks highly of Brooklyn College students in the sense of responsibility and the lack of abundant late fines, viewing the amnesty program as positive resource in general. However, there is an alternative view of the program.

“I think its good that were getting the books back. I think it’s not so good because of loss of revenue to replace books that need to be replaced,” said Jason Rivera, a Brooklyn College staff member that works at the library circulation desk. “I kind of think it gives some people—not all—but some people I’ve dealt with, a feeling that there are really no consequences to their actions.”

Coming from Rivera’s own experiences, some of the books returned aren’t in the best condition. In fact, Rivera looks at the revenue that would have been generated by the fines as something that could have been put towards buying a new copy or rebinding the content. In his opinion, the amnesty program actually slightly deters the sense of responsibility that CUNY students would feel inclined to have towards borrowing and maintaining CUNY property.

“Some people take it as a reason to return books that they weren’t going to return, and figure that they would never have to pay the fine,” added Rivera. “So they figure with the amnesty, they might as well just do it, and they don’t have to pay the consequences; which kind of bothers me a little bit. “

Even while harboring these feelings, Rivera sees the amount of time that CUNY students have to utilize the amnesty program as an appropriate time frame, giving people the help that they need to wipe out the fines.

Both sides of the same coin are revealed to be positive, yet bittersweet, in the sense of how the CUNY amnesty program is supposed to function. Regardless, this opportunity is being well received by Brooklyn College students.

“Being a college student and working part time, the last thing I want to do is pay any kind of fee. To be honest, I’d rather pay for lunch, “said Tyrice Hester, a Brooklyn college senior. “I’ve had times where I forget to return a book, and I live in Long Island, so it’s difficult for me to commute back and forth for small things like that.”

So far, Hester has paid as much as $5 for late fees, so he is definitely looking forward to taking advantage of the program.  Even though the late fee seems small, it’s only one story in the sea of endless complaints.

Other students have had to pay fees for actions that they did not realize were penalizable. “I think it was two semesters ago, I was taking Introduction to Psychology. I borrowed the textbook and I didn’t leave the reference area,” said Abigail Edmunds, a Brooklyn college senior.  “I don’t think anybody told me I had two-hour limit, much less telling me there was a fee. “

Edmunds thinks that the amnesty program is a good idea, considering the some late fees, such as those for borrowing books that you can’t leave campus with, are almost unfair. She’s definitely looking forward to taking advantage of the program for the last of the senior year.

Though there are possible faults within the program, the CUNY Wide Library Amnesty Program exists for the sake of not only the book-borrowing students that have been discouraged by accumulating fines, but for the students who need the books.

For the sake of it all, no matter how long it lasts, library amnesty just might be the best policy.

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