‘Feline Fee Forgiveness’: Library in Massachusetts slashes overdue late fees in exchange for cat photos

News & Politics

It appears that having a pet cat can help people get out of paying for late library books — at least in Worcester, Massachusetts. During March, a library in town will slash late library fees in exchange for a photo of a person’s cat, according to the New York Post.

The goal of the initiative is to encourage and motivate people to visit the library, even if they owe fees for late or damaged books.

Jason Homer, executive director of the Worcester Public Library, told Fox News Digital that “[p]eople are struggling and sometimes choosing between paying for that book that, literally, your dog ate for $30 or buying $30 worth of groceries — those are two very different things.”

“And, people do have priorities. So we want to come to them with kindness, with forgiveness and say, ‘Just be part of our community.’”

The name of the odd endeavor is affectionately known as the “Feline Fee Forgiveness” program. It is part of a larger, month-long effort known as “March Meowness.”

The New York Times reported that in just a matter of days, the program has seen hundreds of library returns, multiple postings of random cat photographs on Facebook, and photographs and drawings of cats on an ever-growing “cat wall” in the main building.

“A librarian is a book lover, a cardigan lover and a cat lover,” Homer said.

“Our staff has a lot of cats. Some of the staff were in a meeting and they were coming up with ways to bring people back to the library, and they thought, ‘What if we removed as many barriers as possible and told people they could show us a picture of a cat, draw a picture of a cat or just tell us about a cat?’”

The library reportedly did away with fines for overdue books back in 2020. Reports mentioned that the reason given was because, during the COVID-19 lockdown, misplaced books were unable to be returned in person.

Homer said, “There’s a significant number of studies done by public libraries across the country that have proven we don’t get books back with fines.”

“We end up losing people. Realistically, those fines did really nothing for the library, and it wasn’t really a money-generating piece. It was more like a sitting debt that was never paid.”

He went on to say that lost library books are a nationwide issue right now, adding: “Many communities have this list of kids that have these $30 fees on their cards when they had no control and there was no ill intent.”

“There’s no way to really collect that. So we’re moving on. And ultimately the goal here was to find some way to get people to come back to the library — [people who] might be afraid of the feeling that they will get penalized. We would rather work with funders to get the money and not have to punish kids for some things that are out of their control.”

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