Soldotna library collecting food for overdue fines

The Joyce K. Carver Memorial Soldotna Public Library is hoping to relieve hunger and financial stress.

For the third year, the library is celebrating National Library Week by offering the “Food for Fines” program. During the week of April 12-18, people with overdue items at the library can reduce their fine by $1 for every can or box of non-perishable food item donated. People wanting to participate must bring the food to the library’s service desk during opening hours.

All of the donated food goes to support the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank.

Last year, the program helped contribute nearly 100 pounds of food to the food bank, according to an email from Katja Wolfe, the library’s assistant librarian.

Similar programs are not uncommon at libraries around the country, according to Rachel Nash, city librarian. Nash gave Wolfe credit for the idea to implement the program in Soldotna.

As of Monday, 537 of the library’s 4,428 checked out items were overdue. While approximately 12 percent of the library’s items are overdue, the library is doing its best to reduce that amount, Nash said.

She said that one of the reasons for the decline in overdue items is the Apollo Integrated Library System, which was implemented in January. She said that the system can provide pre-overdue notices to those who have opted-in. People can now receive notices via email and text message.

The library currently charges 15 cents a day for overdue items, with a cap of $5 per item. If an item is not returned within 100 days of the due date, the library considers it lost. In such cases, the person who checked out the item is responsible for the replacement cost plus the $5 fee.

Nash said that working with organizations such as the food bank is an important way to build stronger relationships with organizations around the peninsula.

Linda Swarner, executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, said that more people are seeking help and assistance from the food bank. Because of the increasing need for food, she said she was pleased about the library’s “Food for Fines” program.