Blogger Katy Kelly shares tips and tricks for conducting a successful Food for Fines program.
Food for Fines is a popular program for many libraries to offer fine amnesty and good will toward those in need. Typically, the program offers fine forgiveness in return for shelf-stable food items that are then donated to a local food pantry. Consider the points below for planning a Food for Fines and to freshen up an already existing program.
Timing is Key
On a university or college campus, the end of spring semester can be a boon for food drives involving nonperishable items. Students are getting ready to move and are cleaning out their pantries. In 2015, we received a 24-pack of macaroni and cheese. Another time to consider is between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Many public library members on the Programming Librarian Interest Group (PLIG) Facebook page noted that they do their Food for Fines drive around the holiday season, a high-need time at food banks.
Follow Your Unique Recipe
Guidelines or rules for the program will vary library to library. Some restrictions offered by PLIG members included food item size requirements, exclusions for glass containers and prohibition on expired “use-by” dates. At the University of Dayton, our only restrictions are that the food be labeled and nonperishable.
Promote your Food for Fines program in reminder emails about due dates, fines or holds. At University of Dayton, we edit the messages sent automatically by our integrated library system (ILS) during the week we run Food for Fines. Patrons who receive email notifications about a book that is due soon or ready to be picked up also learn about the program.
Avoiding the Can of Worms
Some libraries have restrictions on accepting donations in lieu of money to benefit another nonprofit. If that’s the case, you could just run a set period of time for fine amnesty and simply waive fines. You can still partner with food banks and other agencies for different initiatives. Also, consider becoming a permanent drop-off location for your local food bank.
Food for Fines helps show your library’s good will toward the community and your patrons. See if you can try it out; or, if this is a longstanding program for you library, comment below to tell us what works well.