Libraries allowing students to pay back debt with food, toiletry items

Students at Western Kentucky University study in the University Commons area in Helm Library on Sunday, January 27th. The Commons area is set to start renovation later in the spring 2019 semester.

Cassady Lamb

Readers who have overdue book fines at WKU Libraries are able to take advantage of a program allowing them to pay their debts with food instead of money.

The Food for Fines program is a food drive sponsored by WKU Libraries. The program gives students and faculty the opportunity to pay back their library debt with food and toiletry items. One item will equal one dollar.

Several years ago, WKU Libraries’ patrons account specialist, Paula Bowles, wanted to lighten library fines while giving food to a cause, said Jennifer Wilson, communications director for WKU Libraries.

“So we began the Fine Forgiveness Food Drive,” she said. “We have donated to local church food pantries and for the past few years, we’ve been donating to the WKU food pantry.”

WKU has joined the ranks of university libraries as well as city libraries that give fine amnesty in return for certain donated goods.

“Any type of food that is non-perishable such as canned goods, pasta, beans, peanut butter, nuts, crackers,” Wilson said. “Toiletries are also welcome such as shampoo, conditioner, lotion, toothpaste, toothbrushes, etc.”

Participants are forgiven a dollar per toiletry or food item and are able to donate up to $20 worth of items.

“If they would like to give more, we can work with them on an individual basis,” Wilson said.

The Food for Fines food drive has been accepting donations for the past two weeks and will halt donations on Friday, but the food pantry operates and takes donations all year long.

The drive is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, according to Cara Walters, a sustainability graduate assistant.

“We have been kind of in a transition phase right now because we have been under renovation,” Walters said. “We encourage people to bring donations while we’re open, but if they can’t get them to us during the office hours, if they’re comfortable people can leave the donations on the front porch.”

For the past decade WKU Libraries has donated non-perishable food items to both the campus as well as the surrounding community.

All WKU students, faculty and staff are eligible to use the food pantry. One will have to complete a confidential digital form before getting access to the items stored in the pantry.

“The digital form is basically just for keeping track of our records, a statistics type of thing,” Walters said. “It’s showing that we are a valuable resource on campus. It’s not used to keep track of anyone, we don’t ask for 800 numbers anymore. It just shows how many people use the pantry each semester.”

This semester, more students have taken use of the pantry compared to recent previous semesters, where more staff used the pantry, according to the pantry’s records.

The food pantry is located in the sustainability house on 503 Regents Ave. Items will be collected on the fourth floor of Raymond Cravens Library until Nov. 22.

News reporter Cassady Lamb can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @ lambp0p.