ACT News

Food bank plan for Canberra's overdue library fees

Minister for Municipal Services Meegan Fitzharris at the Gungahlin Library. Book fees are being waived in return for ...
Minister for Municipal Services Meegan Fitzharris at the Gungahlin Library. Book fees are being waived in return for food donations. Helping her are Eaden Chapman, 5, left, and Connor Chapman, 3, both of O'Connor. Photo: Graham Tidy

Public libraries in Canberra will clear members' unpaid fines for overdue books in exchange for donations to a food distribution charity.

Newly appointed ACT government Transport and Municipal Services Minister Meegan Fitzharris joined with Libraries ACT on Sunday to give members the chance to clear unpaid fines for overdue items by donating food to OzHarvest.

Starting Monday, the project will see fines converted into assistance for people in need across Canberra throughout February.

"During the month of February, members with overdue items are encouraged to participate in Food for Fines and donate tins or packets of non-perishable food in exchange for fines being removed from their membership record," Ms Fitzharris said after visiting the Gungahlin Library.

"All food will then be donated to OzHarvest Canberra to provide support to charities across the region."

Each food item donated will see up to $2 of overdue fines removed from a member's record. The total number of tins or packets will equate to the value of the fines removed, not the item's cost.

The public can make donations of food at any of Libraries ACT's nine branches during opening hours, but Ms Fitzharris said members were asked not to put food items into library book return chutes.

"Food for Fines is a campaign used by a number of public libraries around the world. It is also an opportunity to remind members to return any overdue items," Ms Fitzharris said.

"Libraries ACT has used the initiative before and in the first campaign in December 2010, more than 7400 food items were donated and over 12,500 overdue library items returned."

She said the end of the school summer holidays and return to work period made the month of February an ideal time for Canberrans to return any overdue items and also clear any unpaid library fines.

"Some ideas for Libraries ACT members to consider donating during February could be tins of soup and tuna or packets of pasta, rice, crackers or cereal," Ms Fitzharris said.

The Food for Fines initiative at Libraries ACT begins on Monday and will run until February 29.

Last financial year, Libraries ACT added 65,000 new items to its collection.

OzHarvest was founded in 2004, becoming the first perishable food rescue organisation in Australia. It collects quality excess food from commercial outlets and other organisations and delivers food free of charge to about 800 charities in Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Gold Coast, Melbourne, Newcastle and Perth.