Food for Fines is back!


As I See It


The first time I heard about this program… I thought one is being fined for eating or donating food. I was wrong!

Food for Fines is a unique program where delinquent library users can get rid of their accumulated fines in using the library, either because they did not return the books they borrowed were lost/misplaced or have incurred overdue penalties after the deadline, by exchanging them with non-perishable food donations.

With its successful implementation last year in ridding out fines of library users using the Food for Fines Program, the Santa Clara County Library District (SCCLD) will again implement it this year, according to District Librarian Nancy Howe in a press statement issued by Public Communications Specialist Mariana Walker.

In its initial month-long offering in 2018, the equivalent of nearly 30,000 meals were collected from library users for the food they used to waive their fines they have incurred in using the library. This is a program in partnership with Second Harvest of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties where non-perishable food donation to the library in exchange of fines were accepted and donated food items were turned over to Second Harvest for distribution to the needy.

Starting on Tuesday, April 2, the Santa Clara County Library District (SCCLD) is holding a second round of its Food for Fines program, in which patrons can waive up to $100 in fines and fees in exchange for a non-perishable food donation of any amount… just like what they did last year.

County Librarian Nancy Howe said, “Food for Fines was successful last year in welcoming our patrons back to the library and generating much needed food for our neighbors. We hope to see an even greater level of participation among library users and continued generosity from all of our communities.”

Thousands of library patrons took part last year, with nearly $150,000 in fines and fees waived, benefiting over 5,300 individuals zeroing out their account balances.

In fact, I was told that there were community members who took part in the program even though they did not have any outstanding fees or fines. Well… they just wanted to do their part to help those in need by donating food through the library program. There were even patrons who paid their fines and made a food donation, which to me, was an amazing gesture! Excellent program, indeed!

County Supervisor and Library Joint Powers Authority (JPA) Board Chairman, Mike Wasserman said, “Having an outstanding fine or fee can discourage patrons from fully utilizing their local library. Food for Fines allows individuals to make good with the library in a cost friendly manner, while also helping others in the community who require food assistance.”

I thought the program is cool! Now on its second year, it will serve more people needing food assistance at the same time helping delinquent library users go back to good standing status.

Food for Fines is being implemented in each of SCCLD’s seven community libraries and one branch library, as well as through its Bookmobile. Patrons simply bring their food donations to the Accounts Desk during normal library business hours to have up to $100 in fines and fees waived. That simple, folks!

In the case of lost or expired library cards, or those who would like to sign up for a free library card, participants should simply bring any valid form of photo identification in order to take part. A list of most needed and allowable food donations can be found at You can also inquire from the desk librarian.

All the food collected through Food for Fines will go to Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, which supports over 250,000 Silicon Valley residents monthly, half of them children or seniors.

According to the district library statistics, an estimated 83.6 million meals are being missed every year by vulnerable households in Santa Clara County. This is the gap that the program hopes to capture and provide the food they badly need as a humanitarian gesture. This program allows delinquent patrons to easily return to good standing while at the same time doing something meaningful for those in need in the community. Great!

Consider this reaction from Second Harvest CEO Leslie Bacho: “We were delighted with the huge response to Santa Clara County Library District’s first Food for Fines amnesty program last year and are thrilled to see the momentum continue again this year. Food for Fines is a great way for the community to step up and help the 1 in 4 people in Silicon Valley who are struggling with hunger.”

Let’s not forget that the Santa Clara County Library District (SCCLD) promotes knowledge, ideas, and cultural enrichment. Its collection includes more than 2 million books, videos, CDs, DVDs, Audiobooks, eBooks and extensive online resources accessible from home or work. In 2014, SCCLD celebrated one hundred years of service to local residents. For the last eleven years, SCCLD has been consistently recognized as one of America’s Star Libraries by Library Journal. Aside from the fact that it is a distinguished library district, it is also a great ally and partner of the community they serve.

Let’s be proud of our library district because in 2018, SCCLD was ranked among the top ten large libraries in the United States in the Library Journal Index of Public Library Service. In 2014 and 2015, SCCLD won Innovator Awards from the Urban Libraries Council.

How big is the library district? SCCLD includes two bookmobiles, an online library, seven community libraries and one branch library each serving Campbell, Cupertino, Gilroy, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Milpitas, Monte Sereno, Morgan Hill, Saratoga and the unincorporated areas of Santa Clara County. In 2018, SCCLD had nearly 370,000 library account holders and welcomed 3.3 million visitors who borrowed 9.85 million items.

So, while solving the delinquency problem of library users, the Food for fines program is also doing a big community service for the needy.

I salute the library district for implementing such a novel program! Keep it up!

Kudos to Nancy, of course!

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