January 24, 2010 — When you work for the library, you get a lot of questions about fines – even when you’re not actually at the library: “Do you know how much I owe in overdue fines?” “Can you ‘fix’ my fines?” (No, and no.)
So for all those people weary of a having a $5 or $10 fine hanging over their heads, today is the beginning of a unique “fine amnesty” week at the Springfield-Greene County Library District.
During Food For Fines today through Jan. 30, children, teens and adults can shave down or pay off their overdue fine balance in exchange for a donation of non-perishable food to Ozarks Food Harvest – The Food Bank.
Patrons get a 50-cent credit on their fine balance for each item of non-perishable, canned or boxed food brought to the checkout desk of any branch library or bookmobile. Each branch will have a clearly marked bin or box for collections. (Only undamaged, unexpired items please; no soda and no liquids in glass or plastic containers.) The library district will donate all food to Ozarks Food Harvest.
There’s no dollar limit, and only fines for overdue books, movies, etc., are eligible – not fees for lost or damaged materials.
Don’t have fines? Consider paying it forward: You can donate food items for a friend or family member’s overdue balance.
Got a $5 fine? Bring 10 of anything – boxes of mac ‘n cheese, jars of peanut butter, cans of pinto beans. The average patron fine is $10, so that’s 20 items.
About 3,117 teens owe more than $10 in fines and 1,915 children owe more than $10 in fines. Curious? More than 80,000 people owe some amount in either overdue fines or fees from lost or damaged materials.
Since a $10 fine balance prevents a patron – including children – from checking out additional library materials, Food For Fines is an easy way to restore checkout privileges while helping hungry people in the Ozarks.
Lindsey Neddenriep with Ozarks Food Harvest says its member agencies across 29 counties are seeing up to 50 percent increases in requests for emergency food assistance. As the only food bank in southwest Missouri, it reaches more than 55,000 people.
Food For Fines is not quite fine amnesty. But it’s a way to pay off that niggling balance that could actually make you feel far richer when you leave.
Kathleen O’Dell is community relations director for the Springfield-Greene County Library District. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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