Library collecting food instead of fines. For now.

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More information on Auburn Public Library’s Amnesty Week can be found at www.auburn.lib.me.us.

AUBURN — At the public library is a barrel full of nonperishable food and another one right behind it waiting to be filled up.

All thanks to Amnesty Week, during which those returning overdue items are fined food instead of money.

Book borrowers know a good deal when they see one. Some do, anyway.

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“It’s been fairly productive,” said John Kelley, head of lending services at the library. “We’d like to see more, but we’re happy.”

Amnesty Week lasts until Saturday. After that, those returning overdue books and such will have to fork over cash.

The barrel of food and whatever is collected over the next three days is bound for Good Shepherd Food-Bank. The potential is for a great deal of nonperishable food to come before the week is over. According to Library Director Lynn Lockwood, about 1,100 people have accumulated more than $83,000 in overdue fines over the past three years.

That means a lot of borrowed books, videos and other items are still out there.

“It’s especially important that library users take advantage of this Amnesty Week,” Lockwood said when the program was announced, “because after the food-for-fines week, the library’s trustees will, as necessary, use a third party to encourage patrons with overdue materials to return them to the library, as well as to encourage patrons with fines to pay them.”

The library board plans to use Unique Management, a company that focuses exclusively on recovering library materials and collecting fines. The library deal with Unique Management goes into effect April 1 and will continue over a 90-day trial period.

For now, library officials would rather see people taking advantage of what is clearly a win-win-win situation: Book borrowers get out of paying cash fines, the library gets its goods back and food is rounded up for the people who need it.

“There’s still time,” Kelley said.

mlaflamme@sunjournal.com

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