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During Amnesty Week, PCL Welcomes Food for Fines

Published Date: 
March 16, 2017

Seeking the Return of 7,000 Overdue Items, the Library Donates to the Food Bank

Providence Community Library (PCL) will hold its popular annual amnesty event April 8 -15.  PCL patrons with overdue materials can return them to any PCL location and give non -perishable food items in place of fines. Big banners announcing “All fines forgiven!” come with the Library’s assurance that absolutely no questions will be asked! All food collected will be given to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. PCL’s Amnesty Week coincides with National Library Week and Rhode Island Library Awareness Day (April 8) and the multiple celebrations will get off to a fun and exciting start with a community party at Knight Memorial Library. Free books, provided by Books are Wings, will be given away to children at every PCL location to take home and keep, while stocks last.

Overdue materials are a big problem for PCL; to replace the more than 7,000 items currently missing from its collections would cost an astonishing $110,000. When popular books, DVDs and other materials go missing, other patrons get frustrated, but large library fines can cause an even bigger problem: library users become so worried about unpaid fines that they avoid the library altogether. “Substantial numbers of children in Providence have few, or even no books at home, and many of our patrons with limited income rely on PCL for everyday access to computers and the internet” said Jeff Cannell, PCL Library Director. ”Our materials, services and programs are vital to them and we do not want fines to become a barrier. We want everyone to feel welcome at our libraries.”

PCL’s annual partnership with the Food Bank has provided a successful means to eradicate fines, get materials returned and feed hungry Rhode Island families at the same time. The RI Community Food Bank reports that 12.7 percent of Rhode Islanders (54,000 households) are food insecure and a further 4.7 percent (20,000 households) suffer very low food insecurity – real hunger. During Amnesty Week 2016, PCL patrons gave one item of non-perishable, non-expired food for every $20 of fines owed, resulting in a total donation of 879 pounds of food – enough to provide more than 700 meals.

PCL’s community party will take place at Knight Memorial Library, 275 Elmwood Avenue on Saturday, April 8 at 2:00P.M. Councilman Wilbur W. Jennings, Jr. will introduce the event, followed by musical entertainment from the 30-piece Classical High School Band and a spectacular Fire & Ice presentation by Mad Science. The party is a triple celebration of Amnesty Week, National Library Week and Rhode Island Library Awareness Day and there will be pizza and fun for everyone!