Patrons of Ventura County's library system have until Nov. 14 to clear their closets of overdue library books and wipe their slates clean of fines for the price of a donation of food.
Although the library system has offered fine-free weeks from time to time, this is only the second time that food has been accepted in lieu of fines. The first such program--in June, 1986--was nearly twice as successful as previous fine-free periods, bringing in more than 2,000 books and about 1,000 food items, said Betty Black, manager of the county's community libraries division.
"I think people like the idea of helping the hungry," she said. "This encourages people who have a badly overdue book in the back of the closet to dig around and get it out."
Black said the loss of revenue from fines is not as significant as the acquisition of volumes that end up back on the shelves.
"We feel that the value of the books we are collecting outweighs the fines we lose," she said. "There are books that are out of print, important books of local history, books that are important to us for a variety of reasons, that we cannot replace."
Food Share, a nonprofit United Way agency that distributes donations to all the food banks in the county, is coordinating the effort. The organization is anticipating a greater volume of donations this year because the program is better-known and people are more aware of the hungry as the holiday season approaches, said Jewel Pedi, Food Share's associate director.
The need is greatest for items such as peanut butter, soup, tuna and canned beans, organizers said. People without overdue books also are welcome to contribute food at the libraries. The independent community libraries in Thousand Oaks, Santa Paula and Oxnard are not part of the Ventura County system and are not participating in the program, Black said.