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Library Patrons Return More Than 100,000 Items During Amnesty Period

Library Generic (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

Library Generic (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Patrons gave more than 100,000 books and other items back to the Chicago Public Library during a three-week period where the library granted amnesty from fees.

Spokesman Leland Elder said in a news release that Chicago libraries received 101,301 items during the Once in a Blue Moon amnesty period, which started on Aug. 20 and ended Tuesday. The amnesty applied to overdue books, CDs, DVDs and all other materials.

It was the first time the library has held an amnesty period in 20 years.

Some of the items were just a few weeks overdue, but most were due back at the library between three and five years ago. And Elder says a surprising number of items were due back at the library in the 1970s and 80s – an era when the library stocked LP records rather than CDs.

The oldest item was a copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde’s only published novel, which had been due back at the library in 1934.

Almost every item returned was put back in circulation within a few days. Their total estimated value is $2,035,473, the library said.

In addition, 37,509 people applied for and received new or updated library cards, or had their old ones replaced.

“This means 37,509 Chicagoans are now once again able to use the free resources at their Chicago Public Library,” Elder wrote. “We heard from some patrons who hadn’t been able to visit us for years and were thrilled to once again be able to use their library card.”

For just the period between January 2011 and August of this year, Chicago’s 79 public libraries had been owed $1.4 million in unpaid fees on overdue materials, valued at more than $2 million.