A Massachusetts Library System Will Let You Pay Fines With Cat Pictures

Pictures of “honorary cats” will also work.

This photo would work.
This photo would work. / Purple Collar Pet Photography/Moment/Getty Images

It’s not often that cat photos are accepted as currency. But for the month of March, public libraries in Worcester, Massachusetts, will wipe certain fines from your account if you submit any picture of a cat.

Branches in the Worcester Public Library (WPL) system don’t charge fees for overdue books, but they do charge for lost or damaged ones. The call for cat pictures is a way to keep those bills from preventing patrons from using the library. “We at the Worcester Public Library are always looking for ways to reduce barriers,” Worcester Public Library executive library director Jason Homer told WBUR. “We know that a lot of people, unfortunately, through being displaced in housing, or life getting in the way in the global pandemic, lost a lot of materials.” 

“Felines for Fee Forgiveness” is part of March Meowness, a month of cat-centric programming that includes a screening of the 2019 movie Cats, a cat-eye makeup tutorial, a “de-stressing” hour of playing with shelter cats, DIY crafts, and more events.

Before you show up to a WPL branch with a cat image at the ready, there are a few rules to know. For one, a book needs to have been lost for at least two months in order for its fee to be waived. For another, if you’ve failed to return five or more books, a circulation manager will have to review your account in order to decide if you’re eligible for the initiative. Moreover, Felines for Fee Forgiveness only applies to WPL-owned books, not other WPL-owned items. (Through the system’s Library of Things, patrons can check out everything from e-readers and laptops to karaoke machines and yard games. A cat photo won’t waive your fine for losing or damaging any of those.)

Rules for the cat pictures themselves, on the other hand, are open-ended to the point of being nonexistent. “Even if you don’t have a cat in your life, you can still draw one,” Homer said. “Even if it’s one of the big cats, like a tiger or a lion, and we’ll be excited to see those.”

In fact, it doesn’t even need to be a cat. According to a footnote on the Worcester Public Library website, librarians “will accept honorary cats as well, so you may show us a picture or drawing of a dog, raccoon, orca, capybara, or any other animal.” It’s unclear if that also covers the humans playing cats in Cats the movie (or musical), but it can’t hurt to try. 

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