Its the time of year that many libraries are promoting a food-for-fines campaign and I wanted to make sure I had my little say in the matter. I didn’t realize how passionate some people are about how radical these guidelines were until I posted this on a listserv and got some really angry emails back!! But, I have noticed some kinds of craziness with the rules and obligations put forth in the campaigns that I really have a problem with so I’m putting my little thoughts and experiences out there.
Here are the guidelines we put forth at my previous library:
1) Materials had to be returned to get the overdue charges removed, I.E. no paying for lost/missing/damaged items with food as we would have pay to replace the item anyway.
2) Food couldn’t be expired or damaged and it had to be non-perishable
So, if you returned your items (no matter how late) with some food (no matter how much) we would wave your fines. We got so many materials returned with a can of food or two that I can’t imagine what we saved in the cost of re-ordered and re-processed materials. Also, it was fantastic PR!
Sure, some people returned their materials with a package of Ramen Noodles and got 20-30 dollars of fines waived, but we got the material back, we got the food, and got the patron to come back to the library. Really it was a WIN, WIN, WIN situation. I would also like to point out that for every person who brought in 1 package of ramen noodles or the like, we got people who didn’t owe fines bringing in food for the local community pantry that we were donating the food to and we also got people bringing in WAY more food than their fines were worth. I can’t figure out a bad angle to look at this from, and I tried!
Also I am reading that there are quite a few libraries saying 1 can of food is equal to one dollar in fines. I just got back from the grocery store and I don’t think I saw any cans of food that were only 1 dollar. This might make it even harder for some folks to bring materials back, or donate. I think we have to focus on what the goals of the program are. For us it was;
1) Get materials back so we don’t have to re-purchase/process them.
2) Have the patron come back to the library.
3) Gain some positive PR and build up our social capital.
4) Do some good.
I think we achieved it all! The campaign was an astounding success, we got thousands of food items, and hundreds of items returned that we might not have gotten, and we got some great press! Good job team!