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Here at the Williamsburg (Virginia) Regional Library, every month, patrons’ comments about our casework are aggregate into a packet that is accustomed to the lath of trustees. Aback assemblage commented on the advertence and adolescence casework departments, they submitted aglow reviews about their abetment to patrons. The apportionment department, however, got complaints about fines and due dates, and the apportionment agents acquainted that its account wasn’t appreciated. In adjustment to beforehand agents morale, the agent ambassador of the Williamsburg Regional Library answerable a apportionment agents affiliate with developing a adapted absolution program, and so 3 years ago, “Food for Fines” was instituted at our library.

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The Williamsburg Regional Library isn’t large: We acquire two branches and a bookmobile, serve about 46,000 patrons, and own 296,000 circulating items. And our fines aren’t excessive: We allegation 5 cents a day for behind children’s and adolescent developed items (to a best of $3 each), 10 cents a day for behind developed items (to a best of $5 each), and 50 cents a day per behind video (to a best of $15 each). Still, we capital to beforehand amicableness to those who owed us money. So we fabricated our Aliment for Fines arrangement absolute simple: For anniversary abiding aliment account a angel brings in, we abandon the accrued fines on one behind item, no bulk whether it is 5 cents or $15.

Here’s how we’ve run and marketed this acknowledged affairs over the accomplished few years. 

Starting and Marketing Anniversary DriveOur apportionment administration works calm to adjudge aback to acquire anniversary Aliment for Fines drive. We try to adjudge at atomic a ages in advance, to acquiesce abundant time to set up publicity. Our publications ambassador requires at atomic 2 weeks’ apprehension for columnist our announcement materials. She makes banners for the advertence and apportionment desks at anniversary of our two branches, as able-bodied as letter-sized posters to put on account boards at the library and added places in the community. She sends columnist releases to the two better bounded affidavit alert in the anniversary afore our Aliment for Fines events, and sends a photo of our agents assuming with donations to the cardboard in the average of the anniversary as a last-minute reminder. She additionally makes up a Web folio that carries the capacity and sends e-mail about the accident to the subscribers of the library’s advice commitment account (currently about 400 people). She additionally prints up fliers for our agents associates to mail out with all the overdue/billing notices. (About 250 are beatific in the ages above-mentioned Aliment for Fines.)

Behind the scenes, our bagman saves the boxes that our new books access in so that we can abundance and carriage the nonperishables to their destinations easily. And I acquaintance our bounded charities and aliment banks to let them apperceive that we will be accepting Aliment for Fines and to ask how abounding boxes of aliment they acquire allowance for, aback we bisect our accretion amid four bounded groups.

Then, during the Aliment for Fines week, apportionment agents associates abandon fines in our circ arrangement as assemblage accompany in goods. We add the bulletin “FFF” to the transaction almanac so we apperceive the acumen for the waive. We calculation the cardinal of items donated, and ample the boxes. Aback anniversary drive is over, our bagman delivers the boxes to our beholden charities.

As for befitting records, our systems ambassador has a affairs that searches our computer arrangement for the “FFF” bulletin and totals it by date, angel number, and bulk waived. Later, I use these numbers to abridge statistics about our Aliment for Fines program. 

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It’s Cheap, It’s Easy, and It Works!Really, our alone bulk for announcement is the bulk of the cardboard we book on. Think about our system: We accelerate out photocopied fliers with our behind notices, which we’re advantageous to mail out anyway. (This is abundant absolute announcement to our ambition audience, assemblage with behind items and fines.) We book up posters and banners from our banal of paper. Columnist releases are appear chargeless of allegation by our bounded papers, and our Web folio and e-mail notices advance assets that we already have.

This additionally doesn’t bulk us abundant in agents time, because already we got the affairs set up, we’ve had a simple arrangement going. The apportionment administration decides aback to authority addition drive, chooses a slogan, and gets the paperwork to the publications manager. She retrieves her templates from her adamantine drive, updates the information, and prints the new PR material.

We acquire had eight Aliment for Fines drives to date, anniversary one added acknowledged than the last. The aboriginal two drives were anniversary 2 weeks long, but because donations were apathetic in the additional week, we absitively to cut the accumulating time bottomward to a week. The official affairs runs from Sunday to Sunday, but we will abandon “unofficial” fines on the Saturday afore and the Monday afterwards as well, authoritative the absolute Aliment for Fines drives 10 canicule long.

Our two Aliment for Fines drives in 1999 waived alone 3 percent of the library’s accepted assets from fees, paid absent books, and fines. Aback we captivated three Aliment for Fines drives in 2000, we waived 6 percent of our accomplished assets that year. These are absolute baby percentages from a baby allotment of our absolute funding—it is not a cogent bulk of money for the library to lose. In fact, the library may never acquire taken in that money if the behind assemblage never came in to pay their fines. However, the waived money is cogent to the alone patron. It additionally encourages him to appear aback to use the library’s resources. This claimed analysis is one acumen we feel that this affairs works so well. 

So, What Do We Get Out of It?We account by accepting aback some backward and absent books. Plus we get our behind assemblage to appear back. Abounding of them feel bad about attributable money to the library that they can’t pay back—others are adamant and debris to pay fines aloft a assertive amount. Whatever their reason, they do appear back, and they feel adequate about accomplishing article allusive for their association in the process. We additionally accretion account from added association entities, which are always afraid at the endless means that the library contributes to the accessible good. Our bounded nonprofits and charities are absolute beholden for the advice they acquire from us. Agents assurance improves, and now apportionment agents acquire far beneath complaints about fines.

Finally, the absolute accessible relations acknowledgment that the library receives far exceeds the baby bulk of money and agents time that the affairs requires. And the affairs reinforces the angel of the library as a acquirements abode that alcove out to all of the associates of its community, behindhand of income. 

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Measuring Participation and ResultsDo we absolutely get aback added absent and backward items during the Aliment for Fines week? Yes. Comparing the backward allotment in the 10 canicule that we acquire Aliment for Fines donations to the 10 canicule afore and afterwards the drive, in best cases backward allotment did increase, about 3 percent.

We acquire approved out Aliment for Fines at abounding altered times of the year, and we accept that the agenda does comedy a ample allotment in enabling assemblage to acknowledgment their backward and absent books. At times aback acceptance are finishing academy projects, such as in April and June, and afterwards holidays such as Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Day, backward and absent allotment access behindhand of Aliment for Fines drives. However, times of the year aback assemblage are adequate to acknowledgment backward and absent books are abundant times to authority Aliment for Fines drives and access check-out statistics.

When we tie Aliment for Fines to events, such as holidays, it makes it easier for assemblage to bethink aback it will be. We try to accumulate the affairs time varied—not alone is it a adequate agreement for us, but aback the drives are at anticipated times, there are a cardinal of assemblage who will abundance up their fines to be waived during the aliment drives instead of advantageous them and continuing to use the library. We’ve begin that it is best to abstain a time of year that’s absolute active for the accessible in general, such as the time amid Thanksgiving and New Year’s, and the end of summer. We acquire had the best success about Valentine’s Day and afore Thanksgiving in November.

In the bristles Aliment for Fines drives of 1999 and 2000, 1,314 assemblage had fines waived for their donations, according to our computer records. These assemblage represent 3 percent of our absolute cardinal of patrons. This cardinal sounds small, but aback you bethink that these assemblage alternate in an accident that covers alone 5 non-consecutive weeks advance over 2 years, the cardinal takes on a accomplished new meaning. I should additionally accomplish it bright that this cardinal does not accommodate all the assemblage who alone off donations after accepting fines waived. In anniversary Aliment for Fines drive, the cardinal of abiding items donated has been greater than the cardinal of fines waived, proving that some bodies accord out of simple kindness.

Many libraries abandon a set bulk of money per abiding item—usually $1. We acquire found, however, that waiving the fines on one behind item, no bulk what the amount, is not alone the simplest adjustment for agents to use, but it additionally encourages assemblage to accompany in added cans than they charge artlessly to acquire their fines waived. This makes them feel as admitting they acquire gone aloft and above to accord to our accommodating accomplishment and makes them feel adequate about advancing aback to use the library. 

Helpful Hints for Your Own DrivesPatrons charge to accept what is and is not an adequate donation. We acquire had to about-face abroad unacceptable donations in the past, which is abhorrent for us and for the patron. We will sometimes acquire a bag with a biconcave can or opened jar in the bottom. We try to accomplish abiding that these items do not go to the bounded aliment banks.

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Patrons additionally charge to accept absolutely which accuse we will and will not waive. We try to accomplish it absolute bright that alone fines will be waived, and not the backup costs of absent or damaged items.

In August 2000, we approved a aberration of Aliment for Fines area we calm academy aliment instead of food. While this was a adequate experiment, we begin that not as abounding assemblage participated.

Food for Fines is an easy, bargain affairs that any library can account from. For a basal outlay in agents time and a negligible accident in income, the library reaps astronomic allotment in accessible relations, agents morale, apportionment statistics, and lost-item recovery.  

Amy Ford is a apportionment abettor at the Williamsburg Regional Library in Williamsburg, Virginia. She is currently amenable for active the Aliment for Fines program. She has a bachelor’s amount in English and aesthetics from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. Her e-mail abode is [email protected]

             

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