Library collects food in exchange for waived fines

Victoria Lohwasser, Staff Writer

As busy college students, our lives are filled with school, work and hanging out with our friends. In our haste to do everything we must and want to do, small things are overlooked, such as returning library books. At St. John’s, patrons are given a three day grace period for overdue items, except reserve and media material. Overdue fines accrue at a 20 cents/day rate to a maximum of $5, while overdue reserve and media material accrue at a higher rate.

According to, a transcript/registration hold is put on the borrower’s account when the book is 30 days late, while the hold is put on the day after for reserve and media materials. A replacement fee is charged after the book is 60 days overdue.

For the past 10 years, the library has hosted a program called “Food for Fines” twice a year during the fall and spring semesters. The program allows students to eradicate their fines for overdue books. Food for Fines is available on both the Staten Island campus and the Queens campus.

To participate, students need to return their overdue books and bring in a non­perishable food donation to erase the fine. One food item is good to expunge one overdue fine; however, no expired food or dented cans are accepted.

Fines and fees resulting from lost or damaged library material as well as overdue reserve items are not eligible for the Food for Fines program. The Queens campus donates to the food pantry at Our Savior Lutheran Church located at 175th street in Jamaica, New York. Cynthia Chambers, Head of the Information Management (Cataloging) Department and Co­Chair of the Food for Fines program, is a member of Our Savior. She suggested SJU work with the church. She is now the contact person between the school and the church and helps out every year.

“There is a constant demand for more items in our pantry,” said Chambers. “It is a challenge to keep shelves full and sometimes we have to turn people away.” The food pantry at the church is only open on Wednesday mornings. Those who are in need line up at the door waiting for their bundles full of food, and occasionally other necessary items.

“This project can make a sustainable difference to these individuals” head of the Library Signage Committee, Sabina Curley­ Rowland said. Our Savior accepts toiletries, baby food and toys as well. So, if any students want to get more involved, these items would be greatly appreciated.

The “Food for Fines” program allows SJU to work with the local community and it aligns perfectly with our mission. “Students say it is a great program and once they’re made aware they come back,” Evening Supervisor of the circulation desk and Food for Fines program Co-­Chair, Lori Conkling said.