The Brilliance of “Food for Fines” Drives

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Put your library fines to work for the community?

“Food for Fines” means helping out neighbors in need by bringing non-perishable food items to your library’s circulation desk. The idea is that for each item of food donated, $1.00 (or other amount to be determined by libraries individually) will be subtracted off a patron’s fine.

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So, What Do We [Libraries] Get Out of It?
(An excerpt from ‘Food for Fines’ Drives: Positive PR That Works! by Amy Ford)

We benefit by getting back some late and lost books. Plus we get our delinquent patrons to come back. Many of them feel bad about owing money to the library that they can’t pay back—others are stubborn and refuse to pay fines above a certain amount. Whatever their reason, they do come back, and they feel good about doing something meaningful for their community in the process. We also gain respect from other community entities, which are continually amazed at the countless ways that the library contributes to the public good. Our local nonprofits and charities are very grateful for the help they receive from us. Staff morale improves, and now circulation staff receive far fewer complaints about fines.

Finally, the positive public relations response that the library receives far exceeds the small amount of money and staff time that the program requires. And the program reinforces the image of the library as a learning place that reaches out to all of the members of its community, regardless of income.

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