Food for Fines: Libraries Across the Country Will Let You Pay Overdue Fees With Donated Food /

National Library Week is a great time to check out a book from your local library, or if you owe any debts, pay off your late fees. For a limited time this month, libraries across the country will be accepting an alternative form of payment from patrons with overdue books.

Bring pantry goods into a library with a Food for Fines program and you can pay your fines without further opening your wallet. Libraries will donate any unopened, nonperishable foods they collect to local food banks, and they typically waive $1 worth of fines per item. Some libraries even accept pet food to give to animal shelters in their area.

The Spokane Public Library in Washington, the Lompoc Public Library System in California, and the Thomas Beaver Free Library in Pennsylvania are just a handful of the libraries participating in the charity event this April. Some libraries are accepting food donations in place of cash payments only through National Library Week, April 7 through 13. Others are extending the program by two or three weeks into late April.

In addition to providing food to communities, Food for Fines programs can get people to rethink traditional library late fees. Many libraries are moving away from fines all together in an effort to make their services more accessible to low-income families. At Los Angeles County public libraries, anyone under 21 can clear their late fee balance by reading more books.