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Read for Fines and Food for Fines

Page history last edited by Jane McManus 8 years, 1 month ago


PUBYAC 3-15-2008 and 12-28-2009 Compilations  



  • Most libraries offered a fine-reduction program only to children, mostly 0 up to age 17 or 18. Some targeted teens specifically.
  • One library’s program was for grades K – 5 only
  • A few libraries offered the program to children, teens and adults; one library proposed a program specifically for teens
  • Queens Library allows children who read to each other to both earn credits
  • One library clears fines of all children’s materials, no matter the age of the card-holder – reading credit is transferable [atypical]



  • A typical amount of overdue fines forgiven was 15 minutes equals $1/60 minutes equals $4
  • Others credited 30 minutes equals $1
  • 60 minutes equals $1 (the least generous amount)
  • 20 minutes equals $2
  • Several libraries did a “food for fines” program with $1 taken off fines for every item donated [food drive took place during summer months when food banks have trouble getting enough food donated to meet client needs]. There usually is a cap of $5 - $10/customer



  • Reading was to be done IN the library, under the supervision/observation of library staff. Younger children could be read to by older children, teens or adult caregivers
  • Some libraries provided a specific chair for the reading
  • Customers need to sign-in with staff before beginning to read
  • One library used bookmarks with built-in timers [vendor’s website: http://mark-my-time.com/]
  • One combined a Read to a Dog program with fine reduction
  • Coupons often were designed as a “Library Buck”

·         Many programs were offered as part of a Summer Reading program

·         Two libraries offered coupons as an alternative prize

·         Multnomah County Library lets customers choose up to 2 coupons which are worth up to $15, for a total of $30.

      Coupons/reading credits were typically non-transferable

  • Queens Library started with overdue fines only, then expanded to include all fines and fees. Children/teens read for as many hours as needed to clear their cards (once per school year, plus once during Summer Reading, as needed)
  • One library has a calendar of dates and times posted online – customers need to read in the library on a designated date/time
  • Coupons typically had to be used on the day the reading was done, not saved for future use
  • One library allowed customers to use credits to cover the cost of replacing a library card, but only once per year
  • One library offers a once-a-year amnesty program for returning lost or long-overdue items


Comments from libraries with successful programs

  • “One unanticipated benefit of the coupons is that it gives our circulation staff another tool when negotiating high fines - they can give kids the option of reading off $30 of fines and/or paying X amount, then waive the remainder, for example.”
  • “It’s a great opportunity to reach out to those who cannot always afford late fees.”
  • “This program…has generated much interest and positive publicity for the…Library.”
  • “We started with summer but now use it year round. It has been successful to help kids use their cards again.”
  • “We want to remove obstacles that prevent people from using the library, and this is a good way to do that. This helps us reach out to customers who many not be using the Library because of fines on their account.”
  • “Since the possibility of collecting these fees was slim to none, it does not actually cost the System substantially.”
  • I gave a $1.00 of fines coupon to all teens who signed up for summer reading.  It was play money I had picked up at the dollar store and then stamped with our address and an expiration date (12/31/Year) written on.  The coupons were good for up to $1.00 off library fines, and could not be used for replacement library cards or to pay for lost or damaged library books.  The entire coupon had to be surrendered upon use and we didn't give change or credit.  (So if they used it for a $0.10 fine it was gone for them.)  I also randomly handed them out at events over the summer and if someone gave me a particularly good book review. They all seemed to really like it.  (PUBYAC 1-28-2012)



  • Start with a pilot program at one or two locations
  • Decide length of pilot program (i.e., during Summer Reading, one month only, etc.)
  • Make the amount of fines reduced worth the effort (i.e., be fairly generous like 15 minutes equals $1 or 20 minutes equals $2)
  • Decide whether the program will target children’s fines only, children’s materials only, all fines and fees regardless of customer’s age
  • Decide whether the reading needs to be done at specific times (scheduled by library) or any time the library is open
  • Advertise with posters in the library, online and by targeted mailings to parents of children with excessive fines
  • Decide who oversees program and provide training for public services staff



PUBYAC 1-29-2007 

  • How long was the period of time during which people could exchange food for fines?

    * At both libraries it was one month - one library used December with the holidays, the other library used September with the start of school. 

         * We run it for the month of December each year and try to keep it pretty simple.

         * The local food pantry told us they had a greater need in the summer (people tend to think of them more during the holiday season or cold weather).

         * This year we split it & did it for 2 weeks before school let out and again for 2 weeks right when the kids went back in the fall. 

  • Did you distinguish between fines and lost material charges? or....? 

          * At one library it was simply one can = $.50 in fines or fees. At the other library it was one can = one overdue fine. So the can could cover

            a 10 cent fine or a $10 fine. ($10 was the max we charged for overdue fine for one item) 

         * 1 item pays the fine for 1 overdue item. The fine has to be for the item being returned at the time and can't pay an "old" fine or pay for a lost book.

          * We made each item worth $1.00. We did not limit how much they could pay off.

  • How much did you forgive in total?

    * I don't know the overall amount of fines forgiven. At one branch it's been 15 years and I just don't remember. 

          * At the current branch we don't keep track of it. 

  • Did it noticeably affect your overall intake of fine monies?

    * No. We still took in the same amount of fines for the month, we just got a lot of people who probably never would have paid their fines. 

          * We didn't keep track of how much we forgave, but we collected four boxes of food in our largest branch and a box or two in the smaller ones.

  • Anything else you'd like to add?

    * The bins were out prominently by the circ desk, and we did on occasion catch people rifling through them looking for something to add to the night's dinner. 

    * When you do the program, make sure the rules are posted clearly so people aren't confused. Will you have certain days for drop-off of items at the library? 

           We had a big box that a staff member would empty when it filled up and take the donations to the food bank.  

         * Also if there is a specific organization to which the food is going, you may want to advertise that fact as well.


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