The country’s largest public library system is now exempt from late fees and clearing the books for people with outstanding debts.

The New York Public Library announced Tuesday that the policy change would take effect immediately. It hopes the new policy will encourage greater use of its libraries and create an “equitable system that doesn’t disproportionately affect high-need communities.” Anthony W. Marx, president of “

Library said that fines are an inefficient and outdated way to encourage patrons return books. However, fines for those who have the means to pay them are barely an incentive. “

” For those who cannot afford fines, which is disproportionately low-income New Yorkers, they are a barrier to access we simply can’t accept. He said that this is a significant step towards an equitable society with more New Yorkers using libraries and reading them.

The New York Public Library in midtown Manhattan on Sept. 13, 2021. Roy Rochlin / Getty Images

Under the city’s previous model, patrons who accrued more than $15 in fines would have their library cards blocked. About 400,000 New Yorkers — which included “more than half in high-need communities — fell under that category, according to library officials.

New York City wasn’t the first major American city to abolish late fees.

In the last three years, San Diego and Boston have eliminated overdue fees.

Three weeks after Chicago adopted its policy, hundreds of overdue library books were returned to the library system, according the Chicago Sun-Times.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in the news release Tuesday the policy was “another major step towards making our public libraries, the heart of so many communities, accessible to all.

He continued: “Eliminating fines will let us serve even more New Yorkers, allowing them to enjoy all of the resources and programs that public libraries offer to grow and succeed.”

Wilson Wong is a breaking news reporter with NBC News.