This Library Doesn't Want Your Money for Overdue Books. They Want Food Instead


In 2017, the Mansfield/Richland County Public Library system in South Carolina held their first Amnesty Day. During the 3-day event, library patrons could come and return overdue books and other materials at no cost.

The event was a huge success. “The idea was, partly, to do a favor to our customers,” said the library’s deputy director Mary Frankenfield.

“Say, we know everyone is human, turn them in anyway. But also, we got a lot of materials back. At some point, I think people are afraid they won’t get their (library) cards back. It’s a good way to get our materials back.”

This year, the library has decided to hold a similar event, but this time, it will benefit both library patrons and each of their branch communities.

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The event, Food for Fines, will allow library-goers to return their overdue items by bringing in non-perishable food items. Each food item will be worth $1 off customers’ fines, up to $25.

Plenty of other libraries across the US have taken part in the program, and the MRCPL saw an excellent opportunity to do the same.

“A lot of libraries have done this. We wanted to give it a try,” Frankenfield said. “The idea is, again, a nice benefit for more than one person where we can bring back some of our customers who haven’t come in for a while because they have such large fines and also we get to restock some of the food pantries in the area.”

Frankenfield added that their current library rules allow $10 in fines before a patron’s library card is frozen. She explained that the Food for Fines program will be a great way to help patrons who have been unable to check out books to do so again while also filling up local food banks.

“We are assuming this is a time when (food pantries) were more depleted than other times in the year,” she explained. “We also wanted to do this right before summer reading programs start. This is a way to potentially help them use the library all summer long.”

The library is asking customers to bring in their non-perishable food items between May 14 and May 19. The items the food pantries need the most are peanut butter, canned soup, tuna, chicken, rice and pasta.

“I think it’s much more meaningful for someone to donate food for someone in their community with a need, rather than someone in a separate community,” Frankenfield said.

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“It’s simple in practice, but I think it will mean a lot to people.”

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Liz was a senior story editor for The Western Journal.
Liz was a senior story editor for The Western Journal.
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