SOMERSET COUNTY, NJ - Somerset County Library System of New Jersey has announced Second Chance Library Cards available for teens ages 13-18, effective immediately. The Second Chance Library Card will allow teen patrons who previously could not check out items from the library due to unpaid fines above the allowable threshold ($20) to check out books, ebooks and audiobooks on a limited library cardholder account.

“It broke my heart, really, to have to tell some of our teen patrons that they couldn’t take home books they really wanted to read because of fines that they could not afford to pay - and likely fines that were incurred by other family members or because of extenuating circumstances,” said Beth Bouwman, young adult librarian at SCLSNJ’s Bound Brook Memorial Library branch and co-author of the Second Chance Library Card proposal that was brought to the Somerset County Commissioners on May 6, 2015 for approval. “With the Second Chance Library Card, these teens now have the ability to check items out - it’s just limited to what items and how many at one time. But it gives them a chance to be active library cardholders again.”

At the culmination of a program series for teens Bouwman organized last year, she compiled books for each participating teen based on what they discussed and expressed as interests during the program series. “They were so excited about the books and wanted to take them all home,” said Bouwman. “But not a single book was checked out because not a single one of the teens at the program had a functioning library card. I saw this desire and need, and knew we had to do something to help.”

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The Second Chance Library Card allows for teens ages 13-18 that have less than $200 in fines that occurred before they were 14 years old to check out books, ebooks and audiobooks only. They can take out only three items at a time. Only $5 in fines/fees may be accumulated before the card is withdrawn. This is different from a traditional SCLSNJ library card, which can access additional items such as movies, DVDs, and museum passes and cardholders can check out 75 items at a time and has an unpaid fine threshold of $20.

Patrons with a Second Chance Library Card, who have turned 19 and have not incurred any individual fines or fees, may receive a regular adult card, without any of the original fines or fees attached to it.

“We would like to give these kids a second chance so they can do school assignments and read for pleasure,” said Margaret Draghi, youth services department supervisor at SCLSNJ’s Bound Brook Memorial Library branch and co-author of the Second Chance Card proposal. “It is critical that students read so that they will be ready for academic challenges - and the public library may be the only place they have access to books when school is closed.”

For more information about SCLSNJ’s Second Chance Library Card, visit SCLSNJ.org or contact your local library branch.