For one time only, the St. Louis Public Library is giving book-hoarding patrons a chance to return their overdue items without having to pay a cent in fines.
The St. Louis Public Library is offering fine amnesty on books returned to all of its branches from December 21 to 31.
"We think that there may be some people that have kept materials out and think it’s too late to bring them back, and the fines have accumulated year after year," said Brenda McDonald, director of central services. "This gives them the chance to clear their record and get their library card active again."
But it's also an opportunity for the library to get its property back. McDonald said other libraries that have held fine amnesty periods received "thousands of dollars of materials back."
"They could have checked out materials on St. Louis that are unique, an item that is out of print and we can't get copies of anymore, and they could be recent materials someone checked out last year and thinking the fines are too much for them to handle, something very popular that we would like to have," she said.
McDonald said it's not uncommon for seemingly "long-lost" books to make their way "home" again. Recently, someone returned a classic novel checked out in 1964.
"So it happens; we think there are some things sitting around," she said.
(Incidentally, while the book was returned before the amnesty begins, librarians couldn't collect a fine because there are no digital check-out records from before 1988. Still, the patron paid $3 - "very nice of them," McDonald said.)
The library isn't worried about missing out on the money generated from the fines, McDonald said. Those are used by libraries "as a way to encourage people to bring materials back."
McDonald said the program is a way of thanking patrons for celebrating the library's 150th anniversary and to close out a year of celebrations. But it also has another thank-you gift to offer: those who take advantage of the opportunity to return overdue books will receive, while supplies last, an item featuring anniversary logo.
McDonald added there is still time to get a 150th anniversary library card before a new design is implemented in 2016.