Bring late books back with food gifts and be spared fines, say libraries

Tardy borrowers in Merthyr Tydfil can face the librarians again without shame or expense this month, encouraged by forgiveness of debt in return for edible donations

Taking heed of CS Lewis’s maxim that “eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably”, libraries in Merthyr Tydfil are waiving fines on late books for borrowers who donate food instead.

The “food for fines” initiative, which gives borrowers the opportunity to see their penalties disappear if they donate food, will run through March, in conjunction with local charity Donation Station. “Why not declutter your house, pay off your library fines and contribute to a good cause all at once!” urged the Welsh town’s service, which will pass the food on for distribution to charities and local people in need.

“Essentially what we are doing is offering a fines amnesty with a difference. We are asking for donations [of] as little or as much as people want to give. If they don’t want to give anything they don’t have to, and will still have their fines waived — but people are being incredibly supportive,” said principal librarian Jane Sellwood.

“We are going to give any donations to the volunteer-led ‘Donation Station’ who distribute public donations to those most in need in our local area. Merthyr Tydfil is often vilified as an area of poverty, sickness and hardship, however the people of Merthyr are incredibly generous and supportive of their friends and neighbours and are kind and giving. This is just a way of the libraries helping to contribute to those most in need.”

Locals responded positively online to the scheme. “What a good idea. I’ve been too ashamed to show my face in the library since I lost a bag with books in about 15 years ago,” wrote one borrower on the libraries’ Facebook page. “I’m so pleased by this. I’m emptying my gran’s house and found overdue books from 2014. Been kind of worrying about them. Can bring them back and make a healthy donation now,” said another.


Alison Flood

The GuardianTramp

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