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Massachusetts library holds 'March Meowness' forgiving library fines for pictures of your cats

There are very few things more annoying than forgetting to return your library books, especially if you forget multiple days in a row. Before you know it fines have racked up to a few dollars instead of the original ten cents. To some a few bucks may not seem like enough to keep you from going back to the library to get more books, but for some it can be a pretty significant barrier.

With everything becoming more expensive, the library is one of the only places people can go to check out things they need. Many libraries offer more than just books. You can check out free movies, audiobooks, computers, some libraries even have tools patrons can check out, making life a lot easier for people that just don’t have the money to purchase these things outright.

One Massachusetts library system didn’t want fines to be a barrier to people needing to check things out, so they came up with a fun initiative.

Patrons of the Worcester Public Library can use their cat–any cat, really, to get out of paying their library fines. The library is hosting “March Meowness” the entire month of March where people can bring in photos of their cat in exchange for having their library fines forgiven. Worcester Public Library has seven locations and all of them are participating in the cat themed events, which go beyond forgiving library fines.

The library’s website explains, “We want you back at the library, so we are offering one month of fee forgiveness for lost or damaged items from the Worcester Public Library! Show us a picture of your cat, a famous cat, a picture you drew of a cat, a shelter cat – any cat, and we will forgive WPL fees on your library account.”

“We understand accidents can happen, and sometimes fees might hold you back from fully using your public library,” the library’s site continues.

Don’t have a cat or you’re allergic? That doesn’t matter, grab a few crayons and draw your best version of a feline friend. Even if the picture you draw looks like you drew a cat from memory while blindfolded with your dominant hand behind your back, Worcester Public Library will accept your abstract work of cat to forgive your fines.

“We at the Worcester Public Library are always looking for ways to reduce barriers. We know that a lot of people, unfortunately, through being displaced in housing, or life getting in the way in the global pandemic, lost a lot of materials,” Jason Homer, Executive Director of Worcester Public Library tells WBUR.

According to the library’s website on cats for library fees, they list several cat themed activities for the community to participate in, like DIY cat toys, Hello Kitty Party, Cat Eye Makeup Tutorial and more. But like all forgiveness programs, there is some fine print patrons need to be aware of before heading to the library.

  • The item must be owned by the Worcester Public Library system.
  • It must be lost for a minimum of two months.
  • Things are not guaranteed to be waived, it’s up to the library staff.
  • A patron with 5 or more items will need to be reviewed by a manager.
  • If it’s suspected that the lost or damaged item is an attempt to “restrict access to diverse content,” fees won’t be forgiven.
  • Account holder must be there.
  • All “Library of Things Things” are excluded from forgiveness.

The Library of Things consists of things like sewing machines, electronic readers, projectors, computers, etc. that people can check out for personal use.

This isn’t the first time the library has done an initiative to forgive library fees but this is the first time it’s cat themed. Homer explained to WBUR that librarians love cats and decided to join in on the joke, “we’re really leaning in on the fact that, all in all, librarians are cat people.”

Since the library does their best to reduce barriers for their patrons, in 2020 they stopped collecting late fees altogether but still charge for items that are damaged or lost. Maybe more libraries across the country will use a fun approach like “March Meowness” to help library goers reduce obstacles in checking out items.

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