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Got overdue books? Chicago Public Library will waive all late fees starting today

For the first time in more than three years, the Chicago Public Library is offering amnesty to those who owe book fines.

Starting today, and lasting through Feb. 18, you can return your overdue library materials and all late fees will be waived.

"What we learned in the last fine amnesty was sort of astonishing," said library Commissioner Brian Bannon.

"We welcomed home so many library materials — it was pretty extraordinary. But the part we hadn't anticipated was the number of patrons we welcomed back. During the last fine amnesty, which was three weeks, 40,000 library patrons re-upped their library card, which is sort of unprecedented for us."

The library wants more of those unreturned items — and more opportunities to reconnect with patrons, Bannon said.

During the last amnesty program, in 2012, the library reported receiving 101,301 overdue items, valued at about $2 million, and waived $641,820 worth of fines. The late materials ranged from items only a few weeks overdue to one book that had been due since 1934.

That last item was a limited edition of "The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde, which had been overdue for 78 years.

The library caps late fees at $10, but if a fine of 20 cents a day had been enforced, the "Dorian Gray" borrower would have accrued $5,694 in late fees.

The amnesty program, titled, "Welcome Home," will include humorous "Wanted" posters in libraries, and videos featuring local librarians making pleas for overdue materials.

"They've done these really funny videos in multiple languages: We have one in Spanish, one in Chinese," Bannon said.

The library will be releasing the videos one at a time on social media.

The amnesty program is the first part of a larger public awareness campaign called "Home of the Curious," created by the Chicago Public Library's pro-bono partner, advertising agency FCB Chicago and sponsored by the Chicago Public Library Foundation.

"Welcome Home" will include banners outside CPL locations as well as on public transportation, the city's digital billboard network, the Library's social media and various other places around the city.

Library employees say one of the best parts of the last amnesty program was the great stories of long-overdue books that came out of it. Bannon doubts the libraries will receive a book that's been overdue for more than the current record of 78 years, but he's not ruling it out.

"You never know what you'll get back," he says.

For more information, call (312) 747-4050 or visit

Copyright © 2016, Chicago Tribune

Keywords: books, library, Thurgood Marshall Library

Posted in City of Chicago, Community Highlights