Food for fines scheme helps out
When Kelsey Pratt racked up $170 of library fines, she questioned how she would ever pay it.
Fortunately for the 21-year-old student, Massey University's food for fines initiative has started, meaning she was able to swap 37 items of food and have her fines cleared.
She hauled in a box filled with cans of spaghetti, tomatoes and pasta to the library yesterday, and was pleased to hear she no longer owed a cent.
Her large fine accumulated after she borrowed a bunch of books over the holidays and forgot to return them.
"I live in a really remote place and didn't get any of the emails telling me I had overdue books."
The week-long initiative, which has been running for more than 10 years across all Massey University sites, allows students to donate a non-perishable food item, such as a tin of peaches or a bag of rice, to pay $5 of library fines.
The food then gets donated to a food bank at the end of the week.
Pratt didn't just clear out her pantry to pay her fines - she went to the supermarket and bought items because it was a good cause.
"It's a good way to help people in need."
University librarian Linda Palmer said distance students had the option of sending in grocery vouchers.
The fines do not include fines for lost books, just late returns.
Palmer said she didn't like having to charge students for overdue books but it was the only way to get the library books returned on time.
She said the food for fines initiative was a good way to encourage students to return their books without stinging them with huge fines.
"It helps students out quite a lot. It's not too often a can of food costs $5."
She predicts that during the next five years, with the increase in electronic books, the initiative will fade out.
"There is no way to charge for electronic books.
"We'll have to figure out another way to get students to donate."