Local library allows people to pay off debt with donations

Published 10:27 am Friday, April 5, 2019

NILES — Starting Monday, people with library fines can pay off their debt in a unique way and give back to their community.

The Niles District Library will host the annual Food for Fines Monday, April 8 to Saturday, April 13 in conjunction with National Library Week. People interested in paying off their fines can do so by bringing non-perishable food items or toiletries to the circulation desk. Library personnel will gauge what the cost equivalent is of the items donated and apply the amount to that person’s fines. For example, one can of food is worth $1, while larger items like a box of cereal might be worth $2. The donations will go to the St. Mary’s Food Pantry in Niles.

The idea to give people the chance to pay off library fines by giving back was an idea created by library director Nancy Studebaker-Barringer. Today, Deb Solloway, circulation cataloging manager, runs the program.

“It helps out our community [by providing] for the food pantry,” Solloway said. “Sometimes, they get very low, and this helps out.”

Library fines are 15 cents a day for books and a $1 for a movie. If patrons accrue more than $2 in fines, they must pay the amount back before they can check anything additional out.

Through the program, people can clean out their pantry and save a few dollars. 

“A lot of our patrons look forward to it every year,” Solloway said. “They like helping out the community, so it’s a win-win.”

While some years see better donations than others, Solloway said they are typically able to bring in something to give to the pantry. She said the pantry always expresses their gratitude for the donations.

The St. Mary’s Food Pantry is a community-supported pantry, serving more than 100 families a month. The pantry allows qualifying families to receive a week’s worth of groceries based on their family size.

Solloway reminded those interested in bringing in donations to check the expiration dates on goods to assure that the items are not expired.

For those with fines, Solloway said this is a unique opportunity.

“I would encourage them [to donate] so that they can use the library to check out books and get rid of all their fines,” Solloway said. “It’s spring, [it’s time] for a fresh start. It also helps out the community by feeding people less fortunate than we are.”

To learn more about the Niles District Library, visit nileslibrary.com.