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Act meow: Cat pics will pay your fines at libraries in Worcester, Mass.

A cat with "The Oatmeal" book. (Courtesy of the Worcester Public Library)
A cat with "The Oatmeal" book. (Courtesy of the Worcester Public Library)

Don’t let fees keep you away from the library. You can avoid them thanks to a new initiative from a few self-proclaimed “cat people.”

In March, patrons at the Worcester Public Library in Massachusetts can clear their damaged or lost library fines by visiting the library with an image of a cat. Any cat.

It’s part of a never be-fur tried initiative at the library called “March Meowness.”

“Even if you don’t have a cat in your life, you can still draw one,” said library Executive Director Jason Homer. “Even if it’s one of the big cats, like a tiger or a lion, and we’ll be excited to see those.”

The library created the monthlong program in an effort to bring people back to the library system’s seven locations, regardless of whether they have fees under their account.

“We at the Worcester Public Library are always looking for ways to reduce barriers,” Homer said. “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.” The library has done fee-forgiveness programs in the past, but Homer said the staff wanted to try a new, more creative approach.

In addition to fee forgiveness, the library’s March calendar is littered with other cat-themed programming. There’s a cat eye makeup tutorial (for humans, not cats), a lecture from a certified cat behaviorist, an event to de-stress with cats from the Worcester Animal Rescue League and more.

Homer said the community’s response has him feline good.

“We librarians love our cats,” he said. “We’re really leaning in on the fact that, all in all, librarians are cat people.  …  So we thought, let’s lean in on the joke, let’s be part of the joke, and let’s have fun together.”

In 2020, the library system announced that it would no longer charge late fines, but the library system still collects fees for lost or damaged books.

The program is part of a larger trend of libraries to reduce and remove fees. In Massachusetts, 313 of the state’s 367 public libraries in Massachusetts are fine-free, according to the Massachusetts Libraries Board of Library Commissioners.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.
Copyright 2024 WBUR. To see more, visit WBUR.

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