For a week in September, residents can donate consumable goods at the library and wipe out late fees on overdue media.
By Matt Skoufalos | August 20, 2019
For Collingswood residents whose summer reading has dragged on a little past the due dates of their borrowed books, the borough library is offering a solution that also supports neighbors in need.
From September 4 through 10, the “Food for Fines” program will allow residents to wipe out the fees from one overdue item per donation to the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church food pantry.
Collingswood Library Director Carissa Schaneley says it’s the first such amnesty program the institution has operated. She hopes the project will bring in library users who want to get their accounts back in good standing while benefiting the community as well.
“We do collect for St. Paul’s year-round, once a week if not more,” Schanely said. “There’s a lot of use of the food pantries in the summer because the kids who can get free lunches in school don’t have them, and parents and grandparents are using up all the stock.”
The event coincides with National Library Card Sign-Up Month (during which time those without library cards are encouraged to apply for one) as well as with the start of the school year. Schanely said the event starts mid-week to allow for the word to get out.
“Maybe you had some late fees and you haven’t been into the library for a while,” she said. “This is a great time to be all sorted.”
“Extended use fees” account for “a pretty substantial amount of our revenue,” Schaneley said, which is why the borough library can’t follow the lead set by the Camden County Library System this summer in eliminating them. Together with fees and memberships, fines account for as much as $800 to $1,000 per month at the Collingswood Public Library—about as much as its monthly budget for adult books.
A significant amount of that revenue comes from lost items, which can freeze users’ borrowing privileges until they’re resolved Schanely said. However, she hopes that the amnesty program will also provide a way into conversations with patrons about addressing those issues.
“People think, ‘I have fines, I can’t come back,’ but we will always work with them on their fines, whatever they are,” she said.
“This is just a nice opportunity for people to clear out their accounts and start the school year in a good place, and to support the community.”
Among the most needed food pantry items are pastas and sauces, jelly, soups, baking goods, canned and jarred fruits and vegetables, drink mixes, tuna, and dish soap.
Excluded from the amnesty arrangements are fees from lost and damaged items, museum passes, inter-library loans, and replacement library cards.
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