SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - If you want a truly fresh start for the New Year, the San Francisco Library is letting you wipe the slate clean - if you'll bring back those overdue library books. They're offering amnesty to patrons who have racked up some serious fines.
Snaking its way behind the circulation desk like a bionic bookworm, the San Francisco Library's robotic book return has been busy. "We are forgiving all fines beginning today through February 14," SF Library spokesperson Katherine Jardine said.
For some patrons, it's Christmas all over again, or maybe confession. "It's like being forgiven for your sins," one said.
And costly sins at that. "I think it was 50 altogether," patron Carrie Hunter said.
Hunter's library card was suspended, which was a problem. "Because I really love checking out books. I'm a library fiend," she said.
For some, it's the steep price. For others, it's shame. "Because it's kind of embarrassing," said Sofia Elias, who has two books overdue since "probably during the summer of last year. It has been a year since I checked them out."
Hers are among the estimated $70,000 in fines the library could forgive. So why forgive fines? It's because the library's main mission isn't to collect your money. It's to have more people here, borrowing books.
"There's definitely 55,000 people that are no longer able to borrow items because of their fines," Jardine said.
Now the library can welcome back some old patrons and some old books. One patron's great grandmother checked out a book in 1917 and it's been overdue for about 100 years.
Regardless of how much you owe, starting the New Year with a clean slate is a feeling that's priceless.