Instead of giving a kid a book this holiday season, you can give him a library.
Lincoln Library has launched a new initiative in which patrons can pay off fines on children’s accounts.
“The gift people are paying for here is library access for kids,” said Jessica Paulsen, the library’s access services manager.
Since the Monday after Thanksgiving, a display of wrapped gifts adorned with cutouts of mittens, snowmen and stars has sat in the lobby. Each “ornament” represents a fine accrued by a juvenile patron.
The display has only been in the lobby for two weeks, yet as of Friday, already 41 out of the 169 accounts have been paid off, amounting to more than $600 being donated, according to Paulsen. Accounts are blocked after they rack up more than $10 in fines. Once an account is paid off, the library sends the child a letter announcing the change.
“Oftentimes, it’s not the kid’s fault that someone can’t bring them to library to return a book,” Paulsen said. “We feel horrible that we are kind of punishing these kids.”
Most of the blocked accounts are from when the library still charged for overdue juvenile material. Before July, every day any book was turned in late would incur a 25-cent fine. DVD fines were 50 cents. Now, Lincoln Library only charges fines on overdue adult materials and for damaged or unreturned items.
Deanna Jones, a library assistant who staffs the circulation desk, has seen the faces of kids who try to check out books, only to find out that fines have blocked their account.
First, comes a look of disappointment, then helplessness.
Oftentimes, the kids leave their books at the desk and walk away, she said.
“It would help if people could pay off the bigger amounts, even if people put $10 toward them,” Jones said.
The highest library fine on the display is $193.