How Do Amnesty Days At The Library Benefit The Entire Community?

Amnesty day at a public library can help erase a borrower’s overdue fines and renew library privileges. Some types of amnesty programs at libraries even help feed needy families with food drive donations in lieu of fines. The staff at Portland State University’s library can only imagine the fines that could have resulted from two books returned decades after a teenager borrowed them for a high school speech class…

Via Loughborough University Library
Via Loughborough University Library

The Look On The Librarian’s Face

In October 2015, an anonymous patron returned two overdue library books from 1963 to the Portland State University Library, university officials said. The whopping 52-year span was embarrassing for the patron, who left an apologetic note with the outdated books, one about principles of speech and the other about critical reading. These books didn’t even register in the library’s database, but the librarians were glad to have them back. Luckily for that patron, the PSU library doesn’t charge overdue fines.

Why Amnesty Days Benefit Everyone

An amnesty day for library fines benefits everyone in a public library system. The library gets materials back, which obviates the need to order new items to replace lost copies. Other patrons can then check out the returned items. Erasing fines benefits book-hoarding patrons by restoring their access to reading materials and Internet connections. It may even prevent a fine-related hit to a patron’s credit score, as in a case reported by the New York Times.

Via Portland State University Library
Via Portland State University Library

Food for Fines

Special amnesty days that encourage food drives help even more citizens beyond public library patrons. Sometimes, a high library fine is embarrassing for patrons. Even a $5 or $10 fine could empty a person’s bank account, yet lower-income patrons are exactly the type of citizens a public library serves best.

On some amnesty days, patrons donate cans of food and other non-perishable items to waive up to $1 worth of fines per item. During its January 2015 Food for Fines program, the Nashville Public Library collected 48,454 pounds of food, enough to feed 38,000 local families.

Via Chickasha Public Library
Via Chickasha Public Library

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