By Crystal McGough
At the beginning of September, Pinson Public Library challenged Clay Public Library to a “friendly” competition to see who could collect the most non-perishable goods during the Jefferson County Library Cooperative’s “Food for Fines” campaign through the month of September.
According to a JCLC press release, “Forty public libraries in Jefferson County will participate in the fifth annual ‘Food for Fines,’ a drive held in September that allows patrons to pay off up to $10 toward their library fines with donated canned or boxed foods. One dollar in fines will be waived for each item of donated food. The waived fees apply to fines only. The food drive is open to anyone, even if they do not have overdue materials.”
The food drive ended Sunday, as did the contest between the sister libraries. Pinson won the friendly rivalry, collecting 704 items to Clay’s 269 items.
“I personally thought (the contest) was fun and seemed to get our library users into the competitive spirit of giving,” Pinson Library Director April Wallace said. “About 1/3 of the donations were for fines, the rest were just donations. We had a lot of library patrons that brought extra food items in addition to paying their fine.”
Clay Library Assistant Director Joy Lee said that, even though they lost, she feels the contest was a success.
“Everyone has been very enthusiastic about the competition and the Food for Fines program in general,” she said. “Of course we were disappointed that we lost, but without a doubt, we collected more food than we would have without doing the contest, and that’s what really matters. The true winners are those who we have helped.”
Each library got to chose which non-profit organization it would give its donated items to. Pinson donated its items to Solid Rock Church’s food pantry and Clay donated its items to Clay United Methodist Church’s food pantry.
“We have a group of ladies from the church who use the library’s meeting room each week, including the church’s food pantry coordinator,” Wallace said. “They were all very excited and very thankful for the donations
. They have just started a food drive to fill their pantry in time for the holiday season, so the FFF donations we collected came at a good time.”
Lee said that Clay United Methodist was also very appreciative and posted a “thank-you” comment on the Clay Library Facebook page.
Both libraries said that they are interested in continuing the competition during next year’s Food for Fines.
“I would like to continue it because I think it allowed us to raise awareness about Food for Fines,” Wallace said. “I have no doubt that we collected more than we would have without our competition.”
To Clay Public Library, she said, “I am game if you are game.”
“We would be willing to do it again,” Lee said. “Maybe after our loss this year, our patrons would be extra-motivated next year and we could pull out a win.”
Crystal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org