So, what can we do?
One easy thing to try is the incorporation of a Fine Forgiveness Program. *cue "oohs" and "aahs"*
You could consider having a Read Off Your Fines program, where patrons could earn money off their fines for reading books and submitting reviews. Increased circulation and happy patrons? Yes, please!
Or how about a food drive for a local food pantry or soup kitchen? Aram Public Library has one every November, entitled Food for Fines. For every canned good item a patron brings in, they can earn $1 off their fines!
During February, we have a passive program called Show the Animals Some Love, where folks can bring in items for the local animal shelter and earn money off their fines. (For giant bags of food or kitty litter, they can earn $1/lb.)
Perhaps you'd like something more interactive? What about instituting a fine forgiveness program during Summer Reading? For example, our patrons receive Library Loot every time they turn in a reading record. Each Loot is worth $1 and can be used for fines, printing, faxes, beverages, or the ongoing Friends book sale. Library Loot became so popular at our library that we decided to utilize it throughout the year! (And believe me, people horde those little scraps of paper like gold. "My precious...")
Even patrons without fines might choose to join in the fun, so if someone wants to participate in one of the above programs, you could also give them the option to use their credit towards another patron's fines. We actually just recently had a patron bring in canned food, who simply asked "Can you please use my fine forgiveness for someone who needs it?" Yes, sir. We certainly can. ^-^
In 2016, Chicago Public Library held a Welcome Home Amnesty program, where patrons could bring in overdue materials and the fines were completely waived. Or, for those who had lost materials, they were simply charged the replacement fee, but any attached overdue fines were forgiven.
That same year, Grand Rapids Public Library offered fine forgiveness (up to $25) to any patron who recruited a new library card owner.
Another possibility: thank your users for their patronage and support without any requirements on their end! Perhaps Fine Free Discharge for National Library Week on all materials, regardless of their due date? Or, in a similar vein, Fine Free Discharge for the week after Summer Reading to thank folks for participating?
A few things to consider...
Be sure to make the rules/expectations clear. For example, be sure to spell out that food given in the food drive must be in good condition and not past the Use By date. (People will try to bring in all sorts of surprises.)
Be sure to specify that the fine forgiveness is only good at your library. Or--if the system agrees to collaborate on a particular effort--that system's libraries.
Decide on what the forgiveness can be used for and be very clear about it. (example: "Fine Forgiveness is applicable for late charges. It does not apply to lost or damaged materials.")
Be sure to run the idea up the flagpole, as it were, to make sure that everyone involved is on-board before offering the program.
Any other great ideas for Fine Forgiveness programs? We'd love to hear them!