BELLOWS FALLS -- If you have a book overdue at the Rockingham Free Public Library and wish you could pay off that pesky fee with a jar of peanut butter, now's your chance.
The library, located at 65 Westminster St., will offer a "modified fines amnesty" from Thursday, Jan. 2, through Friday, Jan. 31, and accept non-perishable food items in lieu of fines for overdue books. Each non-perishable food item, which will be turned over to the Our Place Drop-In Center, will waive up to $2 off library fines, which are typically 10 cents a day for any overdue item, though they are capped at $3. The replacement costs of lost or damaged materials and inter-library loans, however, cannot be resolved with food items.
The library will be closed on New Year's Day.
Food will be collected in boxes located at the main circulation desk and at the youth department desk. A staff librarian should be alerted whenever someone is "paying off" a fine with donated food prior to the foot item being deposited into the collection boxes.
Youth Services Librarian Sam Maskell said the Rockingham library has never done this sort of thing before, though other libraries have.
"It was something we bounced around the staff for a while and this just seemed like a great time," she told the Reformer. The library has not charged late fees since its board of trustees voted in May to temporarily close the facility for renovations. Maskell said library staff did not want patrons to feel they were being punished because they could not access the library, though its services were run out of a vacant space in The Square and materials could have been left at the library's drop box on Westminster Street.
Lisa Pitcher, the executive director of Our Place, said Maskell contacted her a few weeks ago to ask if Our Place wanted to participate.
"I said I thought it was a great idea, especially during the holiday time and everything," she said Tuesday. Pitcher said generous donations that typically come in during the holidays provide a nice variety of food items to Our Place's clients. She said it is great to see local organizations and municipal entities getting involved any way they can, adding that several local businesses have contributed as well.
"People are really becoming more supportive of Our Place because, I think, they're realizing that people are going through hard times right now," Pitcher said.
Food items that are especially needed include: Healthy snacks for children; juice boxes with 100 percent apple, cranberry or grape juice; powdered or shelf stable milk, coffee and tea; canned or jarred fruit; canned chicken, tuna, salmon, chili or baked beans; jellies and jams; peanut butter and low-sodium soups. The library will also accept diapers (sizes 3 and 4), toothpaste, shampoo, soap and cleaning supplies.
Library staff also encourages people to donate as much as they can, even beyond what they owe in fines.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.