Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Pay' Fines with Food at St. Johns Libraries; Program Was a Success Last Year, with $9,000 Waived, and the Need Is Even Greater Now

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Pay' Fines with Food at St. Johns Libraries; Program Was a Success Last Year, with $9,000 Waived, and the Need Is Even Greater Now

Article excerpt

Byline: SHAKAYA ANDRES

St. Johns County will bring back a program this year that waives fines for overdue materials at public libraries in exchange for contributions to the county food bank.

About $9,000 worth of fines were waived last year, thanks to the Food for Fines program, which allowed donations of non-perishable food items in exchange for each $1 in fines, officials said.

Because the program helped stock the food bank shelves last year and this year's demand for food is far greater, library Director Debra Gibson said county officials decided to bring it back.

"This allows [patrons] to bring in some applesauce and mac and cheese to clean up [their] account," she said. "People can accumulate up to $25 in fees before their account is locked."

The program, which will begin Monday, will run through mid-December. Waivers are for library fines only; they cannot be applied to fees for printing, lost items or used as credit against future fines.

For fiscal year 2008-09, library fines totaled $234,000 county-wide, but because of the program, only $225,000 was collected.

In Ponte Vedra Beach, the branch library collected 90 boxes of food last year, said Lidia Wolfcale, branch supervisor of circulation. She said she didn't know how many fines were waived.

"Every day, our courier took two to three boxes to the food bank," she said. "Overall, I think it went really great. The patrons really enjoyed doing it. They'd come drop food off with smiles on their faces. …

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