Turn pages into dollars to cover unpaid fines

Want to check out materials at the library, but your fines are too high? Then pick up a book.

The Johnson County Public Library will start a program next week to allow residents to read in order to lower their fines for returning books, CDs and movies late.

More than 1,500 people are blocked from checking out library materials, such as magazines, books or DVDs, because their fines are more than $15, according to Sarah Taylor, Franklin branch manager.

The goal of the new program is to welcome back residents to use the library again and give them a way to lower their fines with something other than money.

Even though the library won’t recoup those fines, the branches want to welcome patrons back, library director Beverly Martin said.

Similar programs have been set up across the nation, including in Monroe County, where about 450 children participate each month, Taylor said.

Greenwood Public Library and Edinburgh Wright-Hageman Public Library do not have the program.

Both libraries used to allow residents to bring in canned goods to reduce their fines but stopped their programs more than five years ago.

Here’s how it works:

If people want to reduce their fines, they can stop by any branch of the library to read. They check in with a library worker and then find something to read — which can include children’s and adult books or magazines.

For every 15 minutes they read, they get $1 knocked off the overdue fines, Taylor said.

Once fines are under $15, people can check out materials. But Taylor said someone can keep reading until the fines are down to nothing.

Originally, the program was to be for only children, up to age 18.

The goal was to allow children to take ownership of their fines and give them a chance to whittle them down without paying money.

But this month, the library board approved opening up the program to both children and adults.

Not only will that bring more families to the library, but it’ll give adults a chance to get their fines to less than $15 easily, Taylor said.

Some people might feel ashamed or nervous to come back to the library because they know their fines are high, Martin said. This program is a way to invite those residents back.

The reading will cover fines only from turning in books or other materials late or if someone forgets to pick up a book on hold.

Fines for when someone loses a book or another item will not qualify for the program, Taylor said.

The read down your fines program will run year-round and will begin in the first week of September.

By the numbers

The Johnson County Public Library is starting a program next month to let children and adults lower their library card fines by reading.

15: Number of minutes needed to earn $1 toward overdue library fines

1,548: Number of people whose library cards are blocked at the library for going beyond the $15 fine limit