During the San Francisco Public Library’s Fine Forgiveness Program (Jan. 3 – Feb. 14) 699,563 overdue items were recovered. During the six-week period, late fees were waived on all returned books, CDs, DVDs and other materials, regardless of how long overdue. Included were 12,246 items that were more than 60 days past due. The value of those long overdue items was nearly $236,000.
SF and fantasy figured prominently in publicity used to get out the word – and in stories about some of the oldest books returned under the program.
The five longest-overdue items that people brought back were:
- 40 Minutes Late by F. Hopkinson Smith (due 1917)
- Brass: A Novel of a Marriage by Charles Norris (due 1937)
- The Currents of Space by Isaac Asimov (due 1953)
- The Principles of Biology by Gardiner and Felmister (due 1967)
- Billiards at Half Past Nine by Heinrich Boll (due 1968)
The collection of short stories titled 40 Minutes Late was 100 years past due, and Brass, a Novel of a Marriage by Charles Norris had a due date stamp of 1937, making it 80 years past due. In both cases, the books were originally checked out by the returners’ great grandparents.
The fellow who returned 40 Minutes Late said his grandmother checked out the book from the library’s Fillmore branch (now shut down), and she died one week before it was due.
About the century-old book Katherine Jardine, Public Relations Officer says, “We need to process it back into the system. We are not sure yet if it will go back out into circulation. It might live in our History Center or Special Collections.”
Coverage of the amnesty campaign included an interesting map showing the distribution off accrued fines throughout the city. Patrons with unpaid fines have their borrowing privileges frozen. City Librarian Luis Herrera said, in consequence, the fines disproportionately affect low-income patrons, who need library services the most.
City data show that the highest fine amounts are concentrated in historically impoverished neighborhoods. Tenderloin patrons owe $302,376, Mission residents are $227,722 in the red, and a Bayview, Hunters Point and Visitacion Valley ZIP code owes $253,302.
In comparison, Financial District residents owe $8,347 and Presidio residents owe $6,495. But any San Franciscan could earn back card privileges by dropping off late materials at one of the library’s 27 branches during the campaign.
[Thanks to Dave Nee for the story.]