The Sikeston Public Library's Fine Free Weeks is an opportunity for patrons with overdue materials to return them to the library without a fine being imposed while helping out those less fortunate than themselves at the same time, according to Sue Tangeman, library director.
This year, Fine Free Weeks begins Monday and continues through Dec. 9. During this time, patrons can bring in a new toy or non-perishable food item and the fine for an overdue library item returned in usable condition will be forgiven.
Existing fines for books already returned cannot be forgiven during this time, however. "If someone has already brought back overdue material and already has a fine, that is not included," Tangeman said. "This is for things that have not yet been returned."
Some patrons who have library materials that are long overdue often bring in a whole case of canned foods, although a single item is accepted for the return of a single book no matter how long it has been out, Tangeman said. She noted the maximum fine on overdue materials is capped at the cost for the materials.
"It's a good thing for us as we get our books back," Tangeman said. "In past years we have had several hundred books returned during Fine Free Weeks. It is a win-win situation for everyone."
Donations and the corresponding overdue items and materials should be brought to the library in person so the right patron is credited. The toys and food items collected during Fine Free Weeks are used for the Community Christmas Campaign.
"We've changed it over the last couple of years where we are doing more toys than canned goods," Tangeman said. "But we will accept canned goods,"
Each donation of a new toy or canned food will cover one returned library item.
"If they have 10 to 12 items that could save them $100 depending on how overdue they are," Tangeman said, as 10 cans of green beans, for example, are less costly than then the fines for 10 overdue books.
In addition to donations made to eliminate overdue fines, many additional items are donated during this time as well, according to Tangeman.
"Some of our regular library users take this opportunity to drop off items to contribute to the campaign," she said. "We've had people bring us cases of canned goods and toys because it's a convenient drop-off point."
Tangeman said the Fine Free Weeks tradition goes back a long way as it was already in place when she started at the library in 1992.
A new tradition was started among the library employees, however. Several years ago they all decided to stop exchanging gifts among themselves and to make donations to the campaign instead. "We all started putting a toy in," Tangeman said.
For example, Joanne Roberts, a volunteer for the Sikeston Public Library, crochets stuffed animals during the year specifically to donate to the Community Christmas Campaign, according to Tangeman.
Patrons should contact the library at 471-4140 if they have questions about the status of any overdue library materials.