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Food for Fines has twofold approach

WESTFIELD – For close to 10 years, a special program — Food for Fines – has been successful during November in seeing the return of materials to the Westfield Athenaeum.

“The Athenaeum wants to encourage usage of our resources,” said Becky Blackburn, public services librarian. “Fines can be a barrier to that which we want to remove and if we can also help the community in a time of need that also fits our mission statement.”

A Food for Fines program will be observed Nov. 1-30 at the Westfield Athenaeum. (Lori Szepelak photo)

The Food for Fines program runs Nov. 1-30 with a designated box to place donations for the Westfield Food Pantry. Items currently in demand at the pantry include pasta, pasta sauce, macaroni and cheese, canned fruits and vegetables, tuna, soups, rice, cereals, peanut butter, jelly, juice, coffee and tea.

“We are so appreciative of the annual support to the Westfield Food Pantry, and the Food for Fines program,” said Rebecca Hart, director, Westfield Food Pantry. “It makes a big difference during the late fall and early winter.”

Blackburn encourages area residents who have overdue library materials to return them and make a donation of unexpired canned or boxed goods to benefit the food pantry.

“We will forgive up to $10 of fines over an entire period,” said Blackburn, adding that the food donations cannot be applied to billed items or another library’s fine. 

“Billed items refer to materials that have been lost or otherwise not returned,” said Blackburn, noting the billed amount is the replacement cost – not a fine.

“Patrons put their unexpired donations into the designated box and tell us that they donated,” said Blackburn. “We then waive their fines, however, we only allow a maximum of $10. Patrons cannot come back another day to waive another $10.” 

All fines from library materials of any kind are eligible, according to Blackburn.

“We don’t assign a value to the food donations but our patrons have always been generous,” she added.

For more information on the Food for Fines program, call (413) 568-7833 or visit

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