Food for Fines: TWU library pays it forward

From November 15 to 19 the library will extend grace to both students and the community by forgiving overdue-related fines in exchange for a can of food. Dubbing the week “Food for Fines,” the library will donate all contributions to the Langley Food Bank.

“We just wanted to try something different,” says Janet Kreiter, Library Circulation Assistant at TWU. “By partnering with students and those less fortunate in Langley, we thought this would be a great way to turn a potentially negative situation—paying fines—into a positive experience.”

Kreiter says the special Food for Fines week works the same for students with fifty-cent fines as students with twenty dollar fines—of course some students have numerous fines. “One can of food in exchange for each fine,” she says, noting that the exchange does not include fines on reserve items

Even with low fine rates, the library collects approximately $3,000 a month in overdue fines. The library staff hopes that students will follow their lead and bring more cans, non-perishables and personal items for the Food Bank than were required. “It's a great way to get people thinking about others amidst their own stresses and problems,” says Shawn Brouwer, Library Circulation Coordinator at TWU. “When a person experiences grace, it's natural to want to share that with someone else. We hope that even library users without fines will be inspired to donate items too.”

Though this is the first time that the library has offered this unique opportunity, ideas of how to give back in a substantial way have been percolating since last Christmas. For these staff members, creative generosity extends beyond Christmas.

“People are hungry all the time,” says Kreiter. “Helping those in need outside of the Christmas season can often be more effective because that's when there is less assistance available. If this experience is successful, we would consider offering Food for Fines again, at a different point in the year.”

Kreiter says the Food Bank welcomes almost all contributions but asks that students avoid donations of pop, bottled water and dry noodles. The Food Bank also currently has a large quantity of small diapers and pabulum. Forgiven fines apply to regular overdue library loans, but not to lost or damaged books, interlibrary loans, or fines acquired through reserve items.

Trinity Western University, located in Langley, B.C., is a not-for-profit Christian liberal arts university enrolling over 3,500 students this year. With a broad based, liberal arts and sciences curriculum, the University offers undergraduate degrees in 38 major areas of study ranging from business, education and computer science to biology and nursing, and 13 other graduate degrees including counselling psychology, theology and leadership.

Last Updated: 2015-07-17
Author: Keela Keeping