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Haywood library to accept canned food in lieu of fines

Haywood County library is experimenting with novel methods for wiping out some of the $250,000 in late fees it is currently owed.

For the month of December, the library plans to accept canned food in lieu of library late fees for the first time. Each can will deduct $2 from patrons’ total bills, though the program will not erase any fines for lost or damaged materials.

Library director Robert Busko said the program has not worked well in other libraries that have tried it but that it was worth giving a try at Haywood this year.

“Given the fact that the economy is in trouble and people need food, this might be successful here,” said Busko.

Haywood’s library also plans to erase all fines on children’s library cards in preparation for a new policy on juvenile cards.

On Monday night, Haywood County commissioners voted to give the library the go ahead to wipe out $16,000 in juvenile fines.

Children will have a clean slate before a new policy goes into effect that will block them from checking out materials after accumulating a mere $1 fine on their cards.

Up until now, the library blocked all users from checking out materials after they racked up $10 in fines.

This new rule would protect juveniles from running up excessive fines, and more indirectly, prevent parents from using their children’s cards to bypass the library’s limits on their own cards.

Busko said parents who use their children’s cards after running up fines on their own cards are a “chronic problem” across the state. They prevent their children from checking out materials for pleasure or for work on school projects.

Haywood County seems to be no exception to that trend. Busko said there’s currently a four-year-old who owes the library $617.50 and a one year-old who has run up a $238.95 bill in library fines.

Since the commissioners approved the library board’s request, outstanding fines on every child’s library card have officially been waived.

“I know it’s rewarding bad behavior, but I don’t know what else to do,” said Busko.

The library board’s written request for the waiver stated that the $16,000 in juveniles’ fees would probably never have been collected anyway.

According to that request, the library seems to value children’s ability to borrow materials more than some parents in the county.

“The library considers this a down payment on the future for many of our users,” the request stated.

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