Libraries to stop collecting overdue book fees

New York City’s three public library systems will no longer charge late fees for overdue books and other materials. Additionally, all existing late fees were cleared immediately.
A number of other American cities, including San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, Seattle, and Dallas, have previously made the decision to go fine free. When combined, New York City’s three library systems represent the largest municipality to eliminate fines in the country.
The decision is meant to make libraries more accessible and welcoming to New Yorkers who may have been previously dissuaded by financial penalties.
“For far too long, late fines have generated fear and anxiety among those who can least afford to pay, preventing them from opening library accounts, checking out books, or even coming
through our doors,” said Queens Public Library president and CEO Dennis Walcott. “I vividly remember as a child having late fines on my card and hesitating about going to the library when I needed it.”
In Queens, the communities with the highest number of blocked cards — Corona, Jamaica, Far Rockaway, and Elmhurst — all have median incomes below the borough average.
By clearing all existing late fees, the Queens Public Library has freed approximately 25 percent of its cardholders from financial penalties. The library system hopes these new measures will spur an increase in membership and usage across its 66 locations.
“Late fines tell people they do not belong, and that shutting them out is simply the cost of doing business,” Walcott added. “This is not only unacceptable, but also totally inconsistent with our mission.”
The Queens Library will still have other measures in place to prevent property theft. Library cards will be blocked from borrowing physical materials if patrons accrue $50 in replacement fees or have 20 or more overdue items.
Even with a blocked card, patrons will still be able to access computers, e-books, and other digital services.
The Brooklyn Public Library’s (BPL) new policies closely align with those of the Queens system. BPL has eliminated all late fees, both new and existing, and will instead temporarily suspend patron’s access to certain library materials if they exceed a certain threshold of overdue materials.
Brooklyn Public Library president and CEO Linda Johnson said the majority of BPL’s patrons are either children, who predominantly use library services to assist with school work, or older adults, who may be less equipped to handle late fees and the anxiety associated with them.
BPL launched a pilot amnesty program for children in 2017, and saw a 60 percent increase in the percentage of previously blocked children and teens who checked out materials, especially in low-income neighborhoods.
“Public libraries strive to be the most democratic institutions in our society, providing all people access to the resources they need to enrich their minds and improve their lives,” said Brooklyn Public Library president and CEO Linda Johnson. “Eliminating late fines means providing truly equitable access to everything the library has to offer.”

Public school film festival coming to parks

Every year, the Parks Department hosts its annual Movies Under the Stars series, bringing new and classic films to green spaces throughout the five boroughs.
Parks is building upon that tradition this year by showcasing some lesser known filmmakers…the students of New York City public schools.
The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment and the Department of Education announced that 32 short films created by public school students will be recognized during the 3rd annual New York City Public School Film Festival.
In years past, the student film festival has been held indoors, but this year the event will be held outside and free to the public through the Movies Under the Stars program.
The New York City Public School Film Festival was created to provide an opportunity for students to have their work recognized and consider careers in filmmaking. The films represent the talent and diversity of students citywide, and filmsn were chosen by a panel of teachers and media professionals.
“Congratulations to all the student filmmakers for their insightful and inspiring contributions at this year’s NYC Public School Film Festival,” said Anne del Castillo, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. “We are so proud to partner with the Department of Education and renowned award-winning talents to support these young filmmakers.”
“The unique voices featured highlight the diversity and talent of New York City students, and we’re thankful for our arts teachers and school leaders who support our students’ creativity, artistic skills, and critical thinking every day,” added Maria Palma, executive director for the Department of Education’s Office of Arts and Special Projects.
The film’s showcased during the festival represent a variety of cinematic disciplines, including animation, documentary, and short narrative film. All of the films are between one and five minutes long.
In addition to being a showcase of the best student talent citywide, the NYC Public School Film Festival was created to help emerging student filmmakers consider future careers in the entertainment industry.
To this end, the festival reached out to a variety of professionals in the world of film who will attend this weekend’s events and speak to students about their work.
These include Tamar-kali, the Brooklyn-born composer of the Oscar-nominated Mudbound, and Kemp Powers, the Brooklyn-born, Oscar-nominated co-writer and co-director of the award-winning film Soul and writer of One Night in Miami.
The Public School Film Festival will take place in parks throughout the city. These include a July 9th showing at Travers Park in Queens, a July 10th screening at Central Park in Manhattan, and a July 11th screening at Sunset Park in Brooklyn.
If you are not able to attend in person but still want to watch the work of these talented students, all of the winning films are available to watch online or on YouTube at the NYC Mayor’s Office’s official channel.

Yang discusses public safety following shooting

A New York City mayoral campaign is an entirely different beast than a presidential campaign. However, the former has some perks.
“The food is infinitely better,” Andrew Yang joked while eating an array of authentic Chinese dishes. “When I am campaigning in New York I can just stop and get food somewhere, but when I was running for president it was like ‘well I’m in Iowa, what am I going to eat!’”
This past Sunday, Yang ventured to Spy C Cuisine in Forest Hills for lunch and a conversation with the restaurant’s owner, Thomas Lo. The Democratic candidate discussed the experience of running for mayor in the largest city in the country and detailed his plans for confronting problems that he believes are crucial to New Yorkers.
“The issues are more varied and local, and I like that you see very clearly how we can make people’s lives better here in New York,” Yang explained. “One of the consistent things I’ve heard is that people don’t necessarily feel like they’ve been included in city government. Some communities in Queens say they’re used to local officials showing up to get your vote and then disappearing until they’re up for election again.
“We are underinvesting in certain communities and we should change that,” he added. “And it does, unfortunately at this point, start with public safety.”
The mayoral hopeful referenced Justin Wallace, the 10-year-old boy who was shot and killed in Far Rockaway on Saturday, as an example of the community violence he aims on addressing if elected.
“One of the major problems that is going to keep us from getting shootings under control is that we’re not solving enough of them,” said Yang. “Right now, the solve rate for shootings in Brooklyn is only 25 percent. That means that three out of four shootings go unsolved and the shooters are still out and walking around. In many cases that means they will likely go on again to do something terrible as two thirds of the city’s shootings are gang related.”
Justin Wallace was killed inside his Far Rockaway home after a stray bullet struck him in the torso.
“Sometimes gangsters miss and harm innocent bystanders,” said Yang. “It’s also tragic if they hit the person they are aiming for, but it’s totally unacceptable that a child is getting shot in the Rockaways.”
Yang suggests transferring more officers and detectives into the gun violence and suppression unit in the hopes of doubling solved shootings and reducing the number of guns on the streets. He also discussed at length the need to invest more heavily in mental health resources as a preventative measure against crime. He referenced Alex Wright, the man who punched an Asian woman on the street in Chinatown last week, as an example.

“Alex Wright was arrested 17 times previously, about eight or nine times in the past year for actions like throwing hot coffee at a travel agent, throwing a rock at a window, cutting a man’s eye on the upper east side, and punching someone else,” Yang said.
“These are all things that he did before punching an Asian woman in Chinatown,” Yang continued. “Now one way of looking at this is as an Anti-Asian hate crime, but if you look at Alex Wright’s background he’s attacked all kinds of people.
“So the problem is that we have mentally ill people on the streets of New York who need to be in better, more supportive environments that will get them in the position to be healthier, but also in a position where they won’t be a danger to other New Yorkers,” he added.
Yang proposes increasing the number of available psych beds to confront the intersecting issues of public safety, mental illness, and homelessness. He also hopes to require additional de-escalation training for all NYPD officers, particularly as it pertains to situations involving a mentally ill individual.
“It’s personal to me because one of my sons is autistic, and in some of these cases we have seen autistic individuals who haven’t responded to police commands,” Yang explained. “So if police officers were trained to identify individuals who are autistic or mentally ill, then they would react differently than they currently do.”
Throughout the conversation, Yang also sang the virtues of direct cash relief and easily accessible bank accounts, two measures that he believes will also indirectly address crime and public safety.
Additionally, he suggested multiple direct reforms to the NYPD, including the appointment of a civilian police commissioner and new requirements ensuring that officers live within the five boroughs.
“The goal should be to have a police force that represents the incredible diversity of Queens and the rest of our city,” Yang said. “I was just in Jamaica and the new head of the precinct is Asian American. His name is Captain Chan, and I have to admit that I was a little surprised but it also made me very happy.”
While Yang explicitly stated that he is against defunding the police, he expressed hope that the recruitment of a more diverse and responsive police force would address the recent spike in hate-crimes and other violence.
To that same end, the vibrant candidate is confident that his own identity — as a political outsider and Asian-American — would address long-festering issues in New York City government.
“I think it would send a very powerful message to have a mayor from an immigrant community that hasn’t historically been well represented in our leadership and our city government,” Yang said. “And that is true for any community that feels like they have not been at the table when various decisions have been made, people who are just tired of the bureaucracy and people making excuses.”

Renovated Central Library will welcome returning patrons

As New York begins to reopen, Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) unveiled the first phase of its Central Library revitalization, both restoring a majestic landmark and creating new spaces to serve the next generation of library patrons.
“The most extensive renovation in Central’s history honors its past and looks with great excitement toward its future,” said BPL president and CEO Linda Johnson. “We’ve efficiently and artfully reclaimed significantly more space for the public, where millions of patrons will soon be able to browse books, log onto computers, refine their resumes, register to vote, and much more.”
BPL partnered with renowned architect Toshiko Mori to both restore the Library to its original grandeur and transform Central Library into a more flexible modern building for today.
The design both returns space formerly used for administrative needs back to the public and anticipates how people might use the library in the future.
“BPL’s mission of providing knowledge for free to everyone is now enhanced by increased physical and visual access to its resources,” said Mori. “Led by their own curiosity, the public can explore the library’s vast collection and experience a sense of discovery and wonder.”
With more than 1.3 million visits per year, Central Library is among the busiest buildings in the borough. Phase one of the multi-phase redevelopment created four new spaces for the public to enjoy
• The new Civic Commons is an easily accessible, dedicated hub for organizations and services that facilitate participation in public life, featuring a new dedicated entrance on Flatbush Avenue.
Home to Central Library’s Passport Services Center, IDNYC office, a rotating community partner office, and a computer lab, waiting patrons will find a common reception area offering seating and free WiFi. In the future, the space will host civic events.
• The Major Owens Welcome Center will provide a first point of access for Brooklynites as they enter the branch through the library’s famous gilded entryway, framed by 15 bronze sculptures of famous characters and authors from American literature.
The welcome center will process check-outs and returns, and direct patrons to services throughout the branch, just as the library did when the building first opened 80 years ago..
Owens, who represented New York’s 11th and then 12th Congressional districts, worked as a librarian at Brooklyn Public Library in the 1950’s and 1960’s. In his 12 terms representing Brooklyn, he was known as the “librarian in Congress” and dedicated his career to providing access to education.
Across from the Major Owens Welcome Center, patrons can view an exhibit on the Congressman’s life, including never-before-seen photographs of the Congressman, handwritten and typed speeches, publications, campaign flyers, and more.
“Major Owens believed that education was the key to civilization and that libraries were the key to quality education,” said Chris Owens, eldest son of the late congressman and founder of “He also considered the Brooklyn Public Library system to be his professional birthplace and home.”
• In the “New & Noteworthy” book gallery just off the grand lobby, patrons can find the latest fiction and nonfiction titles, from best sellers to lesser-known books thoughtfully curated by librarians.
At 1,190 square feet, New & Noteworthy can hold approximately 2,000 books along with space to read amid natural light from the large windows overlooking Grand Army Plaza.
Overhead, a striking custom-designed metal ceiling sculpture with specialty lighting invites curious readers to spend time exploring the collections in the room.
Funding for New & Noteworthy was provided by Susan and David Marcinek. Susan Marcinek, who serves as the chair of Brooklyn Public Library’s Board of Trustees, is also funding a new program called Pathways to Leadership, which will provide full scholarships for Black, Latino, Asian, Native American, and Pacific Islander members of BPL staff to earn master’s degrees in library science.
“It’s part of BPL’s commitment to dismantle structural racism and bias wherever it exists, and I hope it becomes a model for other libraries across the country,” said Marcinek.
• A new and greatly enlarged Business and Career Center is a reserved space for job seekers and small business owners. Drawing on a long tradition of helping the community in times of economic trouble from World War I to 9/11 to Hurricane Sandy, BPL offers an array of services and programs for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and job seekers.
Trained business librarians are on hand to help with everything from resume review to navigation of local, state and federal government aid programs.
The space includes custom-designed wood counter seating, four private meeting rooms, seven conversation nooks, a co-working area with laptops for loan, and two large seminar rooms, including one with automated presentation equipment.
More importantly, the Business and Career Library connects via a new glass-enclosed staircase to the popular Shelby White and Leon Levy Info Commons on the first floor.
Opened in 2013, it is among the most popular spots in the library, with a recording studio, seven reservable meeting rooms, computers, open space for students, gig workers and anyone who needs a quiet space to work, with plenty of outlets for all.
Phase one of the revitalization also restored the library’s lobby to its original grandeur, including restoration and refurbishment of the historic oak wood paneling, newly poured terrazzo flooring, and installation of new lighting.
In the second phase of the renovation, beginning in 2022, the library will update the collection wings, create a new teen center and provide for an expanded and modernized adult learning and literacy center.
“Beyond housing some of the world’s greatest cultural and educational resources, the Brooklyn Public Library is the resource hub for Brooklynites,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “With this new investment, the Brooklyn Public Library can better serve the public, making it easier than ever before for New Yorkers to engage civically, cultivate their small businesses, and expand their careers in their own backyard.”

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