For years the Sikeston Public Library has provided Fine Free Week, scheduled from now through Dec. 11, for local patrons. This year the library is asking for new toys in exchange for returned overdue books, no matter how late they are and without a penalty.
"People who have overdue books take advantage of this opportunity and at the same time, they help the community," said Sikeston Library Director Sue Tangeman.
Items collected are donated to the Community Christmas Campaign and added to baskets delivered to families who are less fortunate in the Sikeston area.
"Instead of focusing on canned goods and other items, as in years past, this year we're asking people bring a new toy for each overdue item," Tangeman said. "It's my understanding that the campaign is in need of toys this year so that's what we're asking people to donate."
If a book's been overdue for years, Tangeman said it will be forgiven during Fine Free Week.
"We've had people who were cleaning out grandma's attic and a found a book that was checked out in 1972," Tangeman recalled. "It just happened to be during Fine Free Week and they brought the book back to the library with some canned goods and didn't have to pay the fine."
Tangeman said in 1972, the cost for an overdue book was about 5 cents a day -- compared to today's 10 cents -- and the 20-year fine added up to hundreds of dollars.
Fine Free Week does not forgive already existing monetary fines, Tangeman pointed out. For example, if they already have an existing $5-fine, it won't be removed during Fine Free Week, Tangeman explained.
The number of overdue items brought back varies from one year to the next, said Tangeman, adding that approximately 100-200 overdue items are recovered each year.
"We have people who have an overdue video or book, and will tell us they will keep that book until Fine Free Week. So we do get it back eventually," Tangeman said.
Despite what one may think, Tangeman said there really aren't any "repeat offenders" from year to year. "It's not necessarily the same people who contribute each year. Some will take advantage of it when they have a book that's maybe two days overdue and bring in half a dozen of canned goods."
Others don't even have overdue items and use the library as a depository and give to the campaign, Tangeman said.
The eight library staff members also contribute in their own, personal way to the campaign. For the past three or four years, the employees have bought a toy for the Christmas Campaign rather than exchanging gifts between themselves, Tangeman noted.
Fine Free Week is really what Christmas is about: giving, Tangeman said. It's been a way to encourage people to bring things back that the library may not otherwise get back, she said.
"We forgive the fines, and they give to the Campaign," Tangeman said. "It's a win-win situation."