Some Delaware libraries offer fee forgiveness for the holidays

(Jana Shea for NewsWorks

(Jana Shea for NewsWorks

Libraries in New Castle County are once again offering fine forgiveness, and collecting food for the needy during the holidays.

During the 2nd annual “Food for Fines” week, libraries will forgive up to $25 in fines for overdue books to anyone who presents a county library card at any branch in the county library system between Dec. 12 and 18.

Libraries also will collect food donations to support AFSCME Local Union 459 Needy Family Fund’s annual Holiday Food Drive.

“This was a great project last year and we’re happy to bring it back in the holiday spirit,” County Executive Thomas P. Gordon said in a statement.

Food for Fines started last year after it was suggested by Youth Services Librarian Elisabeth Simmons of the Kirkwood Library, who read about a similar program in Maryland.

The purpose of the program is to allow individuals with fines to regain access to their library card and internet service.

Late fees are 25 cents per day for adult books and 10 cents per day for children’s books and videos. Internet access and book rentals are blocked once a library member’s fines reach $5.

“We thought giving people the opportunity to take up to $25 off would be something nice to give people more money to use for their holiday shopping or whatever they need for the holiday season,” said Sophia Hanson, general manager for the Department of Community Services.

“$25 doesn’t seem like a lot of money to some people, but it absolutely is. And especially for children’s accounts, because sometimes the parents are charging them that money to teach them responsibility or returning books on time—and the kids are also able to take advantage of [the program].”

The event was a huge success last year—about 1,400 library cardholders took advantage of the offer, waiving $7,693.55.

“Oh my goodness, it was so successful last year, we were overwhelmed,” Hanson said. “We were pleasantly surprised, because we were hoping the people would come in and take advantage of the opportunity to have their fines wiped out and have their library cards reinstated.”

Individuals also can donate canned goods and other nonperishable foods in unopened, unbreakable packages not beyond expiration dates. The items can be placed in bins by the libraries’ entrance and exits any time during library hours.

Library branches, their locations and hours are listed at www.nccde.org/286/Libraries. Residents also may find their nearest county library by calling (302) 395-5680.

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