The Johnson County Public Library faced a conundrum and has crafted a clever way out it.

The puzzle was this: Some people who used the library often had racked up a considerable amount of fines for overdue materials. The books, movies, CDs or whatever were returned, but the fines weren’t paid. But because of the amount they owed, they weren’t allowed to check anything out until they settled the debt.

So that’s the conundrum. Someone who patronized the library often now couldn’t check anything out.

The answer is to let those scofflaws off the hook by — wait for it — reading!

Here’s how it works:

If people with more than $15 in fines want to reduce those 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. Once fines are under $15, people can check out materials. But people 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 the library board approved opening up the program to both children and adults. It might even encourage families to come together to read at the library.

Talk about a win-win. Sure, the library loses out on the fines, but its mission never was to bring in money. It’s to promote literacy and to make information available to the public. This innovative program serves that mission well.

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. This new program will welcome them back and give them a way to lower their fines with something other than money.

We commend the library for this creative solution to the problem of excess fines. We hope hundreds of Johnson County residents take advantage.

At issue

Some frequent users of the Johnson County Public Library are barred from checking out materials because of excess fines.

Our point

A creative program allows these users to “pay down” their fines by reading.