The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

November 23, 2009

Library forgives fines if you give food

CONNEAUT — Just in time for the holidays, folks who have racked up fines at the Conneaut Public Library will be able to settle their debt and help a needy neighbor at the same time.

A unique program that launches after Thanksgiving allows patrons who owe the library an overdue item to expunge their record with a donation to the Conneaut Food Pantry.

“We will negotiate with them to clear their account,” said Kathy Pape, director.

The “forgiveness period” stretches from Thanksgiving to the start of the new year, Pape said.

The program works like this: Whatever the fine, the number will be sliced in half and the patron would provide a like number of food items for the Pantry. For example, someone who owes $50 will be off the hook by providing 25 items.

Based on the number of delinquent accounts, there’s the potential to fill the pantry with lots of food. More than 1,000 library card-holders owe money for books or DVDs they checked out but never returned, Pape said. Fines range from $10 to $400, she said.

“Most of it is very minute,” Pape said.

Patrons with fines generally avoid the library out of shame or embarrassment. Pape doesn’t want anyone steering clear of the library for an old mistake.

“A bunch of people have lost (materials) they’ve checked out,” Pape said. “They feel guilty about it and stop coming to the library. Everybody’s losing out.

“We want to get people using the library,” Pape said. “Everyone deserves a second chance.”

At the same time, the library wants to account for their missing material..

“As people come in, we can take a look at their account,” Pape said. “We need people to say they don’t have (the item they borrowed).

A few patrons with overdue accounts have been contacted and told of the forgiveness program.

“We’re telling them it may be a good time to come in,” Pape said. “It’s been very well received.”

People interested in the forgiveness program may visit the library between 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays, or call 440-593-1608.

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