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Syracuse to encourage summer reading by paying library fines for kids

Ellen Abbott
Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner says the city will pay $7,000 in library fines for the city's kids to prevent the "summer slide," when reading skills deteriorate because children aren't in school every day.

The city of Syracuse is hoping to get more kids to the library this summer by forgiving overdue fines of cardholders 18 and younger who live in the city. Mayor Stephanie Miner said it’ll cost the city $7,000 this year.

“This is another program that lines squarely up with our goals of improving literacy," Miner said.
“What that will do is remove late fees and allow children to access library materials. It will help us continue our focus on literacy, combat the summer slide, but also very importantly give our children somewhere to go that is safe, and rewarding and constructive.”

Currently, more than $60,000 in outstanding fines are owed by almost 15,000 card holders in the city. Library cards are blocked for anyone with more than a $5 fine.

"Of those cards, 4,983 are blocked, which is about a third of the children and teens who have library cards," Miner said. "And they have been blocked because they have accrued fines and fees of over $5.”

Miner said the $7,000 this initiative will cost each year is well worth it, if you consider the benefits of literacy. Right now almost 15,000 children have library cards. About a third of them have been blocked from using them, because of fines. Miner expects the practice of paying fines will continue beyond this year, as long as city lawmakers approve it.

"The amount of money that’s involved versus the incredible benefit that children and families will have in our area, I think is well worth the resources spent."

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.