Sunday is the first day of Omaha Public Library’s Food for Fines program, which runs through Oct. 13. Food for Fines allows OPL cardholders to donate non-expired canned goods and other nonperishable foods in exchange for credit toward overdue fines on their OPL accounts.

During this time, patrons are encouraged to return long overdue items and have their fines waived in exchange for a donation of a food item. For each food item donated, $2 in current fines will be waived, up to a maximum of 10 items/$20.

Getting materials returned is one of the many reasons OPL hosts the Food for Fines program. Most importantly, OPL would like to welcome back patrons who haven’t been able to use the library because of overdue items. Regaining library access while donating much-needed food and supporting people throughout Omaha is the best reward!

At OPL, we understand that life happens. Things get lost or misplaced all the time, sometimes spectacularly so — as was the case with a copy of the children’s book “Days and Deeds,” returned to the Kewanee Public Library in Illinois 47 years after it was checked out. According to Guinness World Records, the $345.14 fine paid by the borrower stands as the highest library fine ever paid.

George Washington checked out “The Law of Nations” by Emer de Vattel from the New York Society Library about five months into his presidency. The book accidentally got mixed in with his personal collection and wasn’t returned until 2010, 221 years later. Technically, the fine would have been $300,000, but the library waived it; just happy to have the book back.

Even librarians are not exempt from fines and fees. I’ve been an avid library user (mostly in good standing) since I was 5 years old. I’ve checked out books for myself and managed my kids’ library cards, too. In the early years with my kids, I tried everything in order to keep track of our library books. I kept a basket by the door to put them in so I’d always know where they were. When that didn’t work, I only allowed the kids to check out five books each so I would know how many books to look for when they were due. When that didn’t work either, I posted the library receipt on the fridge to remind me of which books I needed to find. I tried a lot of different tricks that I thought would help, and yet, sometimes books still got overlooked and not returned on time.

Sometimes finding and returning books was not the problem at all. I’ll never forget a cookbook I used with my 5- and 8-year-old kids to try different smoothie recipes. My oldest forgot to put the top on the blender. Suffice to say, banana smoothie doesn’t exactly wipe cleanly off the pages of a cookbook. Then there was the unfortunate incident with the super-cool science experiment book. We had so much fun building the rocket, but, unfortunately, the book was a little too close to the launch pad and became the only casualty of an otherwise successful launch. Sigh ...

When life happens, partnerships like this with Together and their collaborative partners are invaluable and impactful. Over the past two years of Food for Fines, OPL patrons have donated 8,878 pounds of food, the equivalent of 7,398 meals; and a total of $12,342.26 in fines has been waived for 1,724 patrons. These numbers demonstrate that working together is a “win” for everyone involved. Thank you for your generosity and support. Visit omahalibrary.org or your local branch for more information about this program.

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