It isn’t often that life’s transgressions can be erased by a plastic squeaky toy, but at Sweet Briar College students who rack up library fines can either get out their wallet or donate supplies to a local animal shelter.
For the past four years, at the end of the fall and spring semesters, the staff at Sweet Briar’s Cochran Library has collected dog and cat food, cat litter, pet toys and other items for the Amherst County Humane Society.
The items are donated by students in lieu of paying library fines. Fines range from 10 cents per day for books to a dollar a day for DVDs and CDs. Late “reserves” — books, articles and other items that an entire class is using — can cost students 25 cents an hour.
The amount of the fine is immaterial and only students who return library property are eligible to participate. Those who lose library items must pay for them.
According to Lisa Johnston, head of library public services, total fines this spring were in excess of $1,500 and about 100 students took the “opt out.” Two carloads of supplies, including 250 pounds of food and litter, were delivered to the shelter.
“We got a huge box of dog and cat toys and they were really happy with that,” Johnston said.
The Amherst County Humane Society is non-profit, and as such all of their supplies are donated. “I think it’s wonderful … We usually get the same amount every year and it’s usually a tremendous amount,” shelter manager Sona Bartley said.
“We really do appreciate it, and we love what [Sweet Briar does] for us. We do benefit very well from it, and the animals do, too. … It’s like Christmastime at the end of the school year.”
Johnston said she and the students also have benefited from the program, and not just because it resolves the fines issue. “The kids love doing this because a lot of them miss their animals so much,” she said, adding, “The first year I started doing this, I came out with a kitten!”
— Suzanne Ramsey