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Owe the Library Money? It's Amnesty Month

Mokena Community Public Library District waives fees and offers incentives for people to get a library card before September is over.

A song from the popular PBS cartoon Arthur goes, "Having fun isn't hard, when you've got a library card." This month, the Mokena Community Public Library District has made getting a library card a little bit easier by waiving fines on overdue books as the library celebrates National Library Card Sign-Up Month.

"We are fortunate that the majority of our library patrons return materials on time," said Head of Circulation Dawn Ellingham. "We have amnesty to encourage those patrons that have very long overdue items to return then because our goal is to get the materials back on shelf."

In 2009, 14 people returned 63 overdue items valued at more than $1,130 in September. The library waived those fines, which added up to $315, Ellingham said.

"The maximum fine on any item is $5, but if a patron has numerous items overdue, it can be costly," Ellingham said. "If they cannot afford to pay the fine, many people just stop using the library and we don't want that to happen."

Ellingham said the library has been participating in this program, sponsored by the American Library Association, since 1987. According to a public service announcement on the ALA's website, two-thirds of Americans have a library card. 

"We register more new patrons in September than in any other month," Ellingham said, adding that in 2009 the library saw more than 200 people sign up for a library card during September.

"Our next highest month was August with 154 (people signing up)," Ellingham said.

The program includes events such as  tour of the library to area first graders, said Pat Hoornaert, head of youth services. Ellingham said 63 first-grade students from Mokena Elementary School have signed up for library cards this month so far.

"It is very important for all to have access to the library because of the great resources that we offer," Hoornaert said. 

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