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11:15 AM Sat, Feb. 16th

Library to end Food for Fines program

The Mohave County Library plans to end a popular program where patrons make donations to food banks instead of paying fines because of questions raised over its legality, Library Director Bonnie Campbell said.

"We're probably not going to be having it anymore because both (County) Supervisor Buster Johnson and the state librarian are concerned about the legality of the program, Campbell said on Friday.

"We're really disappointed that we can't use it to get our library materials returned because we get far more money back in returned books than we lose in waiving fines."

Johnson said he has spoken to Campbell regarding the Food for Fines program, but was "totally unaware" about plans to cancel the program.

The Kingman branch has used the program during the holiday season in November and December and around Easter break, with nonperishable goods supplied by overdue library patrons donated to the Kingman Area Food Bank.

The most recent drive, from Nov.

11 to Dec.

31, collected 717 pounds for the food bank, Campbell said.

The food bank received 3,084 pounds from other sources during both months, said Cecil Groves, board president.

State Library Director GladysAnn (CQ) Wells said she spoke a few weeks ago to Campbell over the phone regarding the program, but never raised questions about the propriety of Food for Fines.

"I understand there was a local concern and local authorities would deal with it," Wells said.

"I have not been asked my opinion.

"I suggested that she talk to local legal authorities," Wells said.

"She does not want to get involved," Campbell said.

"Supervisor Johnson raised the question of legality.

GladysAnn said it was a point that needed to be investigated."

Johnson raised questions about the program in November 1999 – and now – because he believes it is inappropriate for a tax-supported institution such as a library to divert its funds, even for a worthy charity such as a food bank.

"These are still county taxes," Johnson said.

"We tax the public for the library whether they use it or not."

Groves said he was sad to hear that the county library plans to scrap the program.

He said he doubts an alternative plan, as suggested by Campbell, to place drop boxes for food banks in libraries will be as effective in drawing donations.

"I'm sure it would be a reduced basis," he said.

Groves recalled Johnson led to the suspension of the program in November 1999, when the supervisor complained to Campbell about the existence of the program in the Lake Havasu City branch.

Campbell responded by suspending the program throughout the county library system pending review by the citizens advisory committee.

Shortly afterward, former County Supervisor Carol Anderson placed the item on the agenda for an upcoming meeting.

She and former Supervisor Jim Zaborsky voted on Dec.

6, 1999, to revive Food for Fines, over Johnson's objections.

Campbell said she has no plans to revive the program because it is too much of a hassle.

"We are constantly having to answer to the board of supervisors," she said.

"It takes too much staff time."

New Supervisors Pete Byers and Tom Sockwell could not be reached for comment regarding Food for Fines.

Library staffers are studying other incentives to encourage patrons to return books and other materials on time, Campbell said.

And while the food program is history, Campbell said the library plans to encourage donations to the food bank by placing drop boxes in all library branches and station libraries, which serve outlying communities such as Dolan Springs.