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El Paso's library feeds the hungry while getting unreturned books back

By: Gina Benitez
EL PASO, Texas -- Fort the first time in 10 years, the El Paso Public Library allowed patrons to bring back overdue books, without penalty, no questions asked.

"This is the first year in 10 years that we've offered an amnesty program for the city of El Paso," said Dionne Mack, director of the El Paso Public Libraries.

Mack said the turnout during the two weeks was a success.

"We collected around 1,600 items that would have been considered lost during that time frame," Mack said.

And the program offered something else.

People with outstanding fines could pay them off with a canned good or nonperishable food item.

"This year, as a result of our food for fines program, we collected more than 10,000 items. It doubled in terms of the number of items that we were able to collect in previous years," Mack said.

Mack said it's a double win.

"We helped to make donations to rebuild our food banks and we've helped our patrons to be able to continue to use the library," Mack said.

Though there's still thousands of unreturned books out there, Mack considers this a success.

"We were really happy to get many of the things that we had in terms of materials into people's hands and not necessarily on our shelves available for their colleagues back in the library," Mack said.



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