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Westmoreland County libraries plan amnesty week

| Monday, Oct. 21, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Patrons of 18 Westmoreland County libraries who still have the books, movies or compact discs they have borrowed since 2008 can have their fines forgiven if they return the items the week of Nov. 3-9 and donate a jar of peanut butter or jelly, library officials said.

“If there is one (book, movie or CD) on someone's shelf, we just want it back,” said Karen Munson, system development coordinator for the Westmoreland Library Network, which covers 23 libraries in the county.

Through the Overdue Book Amnesty Program, libraries are hoping to get back some of the 11,320 books, movies or compact discs that have been missing from library shelves since 2008, Munson said.

Library patrons need to provide donated food with the missing items at the library circulation desk, rather than an outdoor drop-off box, to receive proper credit, Munson said.

“Libraries want their customers and their books back. This is an opportunity to return overdue items with a jar of peanut butter or jelly and come back to the library with a clean slate,” said Nancy Gresko, library network executive director.

The donated food will be given to the Westmoreland County Food Bank in Delmont. The food bank assists about 15,000 people in 7,000 families each month through its food pantry distribution program.

“We're excited to be helping the food bank. We'll be getting our books back, and they'll be getting some goodies,” said Janet Hudson, director of the Ligonier Valley Library in Ligonier.

While some books borrowed from the library are truly lost, others have ended up in the patrons' bookshelves, Munson said.

“There's always a few people who are afraid to bring the books back because they are worried about the fine being too large,” Hudson said.

At Ligonier Valley Library, there is a $6 cap on the fines for overdue library material, Hudson said.

The Greensburg Hempfield Library has not had many instances of long overdue books, but “there's always a problem,” said Cesare Muccari, library director.

Libraries have had amnesty programs of various kinds, Munson said, but “this is the first time we have done it as a group.”

The libraries' joint effort will help put food on the table of needy families in December, when the amnesty program donations are likely to be distributed to food pantries, said Clarissa Amond, the food bank's community outreach coordinator. The contents of the food boxes to be distributed to food pantries in November already have been determined, Amond said.

The food bank and library network representatives had considered selecting pasta or tomato sauce for the amnesty program donations, Amond said, but they opted for peanut butter and jelly – two children's favorites.

“These are items we like to put in the food bags. But, because of the cost, we don't have as much as we hope for,” Amond said.

To help the food bank even more, the libraries are taking donations of peanut butter and jelly from patrons who don't have an overdue book or movie the same week.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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