Kids read off book fines at Dixon Public Library

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DIXON, Illinois-- These readers are waiting in line to return their books on time, but that doesn't always happen.

   “One of the children told me their mom said they couldn't come back to the library because they owed us too much money,” said librarian Kathleen Schaefer.

Those words put Schaefer to work, looking for a solution for fines that have piled up.

    “Right now our fines are twenty cents per day per item once they are overdue and so you can imagine if children are checking out fifteen books and they are a couple weeks overdue it can really add up quickly,” said Schaefer.

Schaefer came up with "reading off fines" to help kids and families get back in the library. Kids up to fourteen-years-old can sign up with the front desk, and trade in reading time for what they owe for late books.

Fifteen minutes of reading pays off a dollar all the way up to an hour which is worth four dollars.

 “We subtract the charges from their account and then hopefully they don't add up new charges and learn from that,” said Schaefer.

Parents in the community are completely on board with the program saying it will help out families with multiple library cardholders.

    Schaefer says the library leaves it up to the parents to keep the kids honest at home, but there are some rules. Kids older than third grade have to stay clear of picture books.

"They should have something a little more challenging for them so they would have to read a chapter book or a nonfiction book,” said Schaefer. She wants the kids to know, this isn't a punishment.

 “This isn't to make reading the punishment it's trying to help kids learn that responsibility and when they are keeping items too long from the library that's keeping other children from having access to them,” said Schaefer.

Getting books back on the shelf, and readers back through their doors.

The program has been around for a month now and five kids have completed the challenge so far.

Schaefer says if it continues to be successful they will look into starting a program for adults to get rid of fines.

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