Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Some schools libraries replace late fines with can drives

TAMPA — No one enjoys paying library fines, yet some Hillsborough school librarians are drawing smiles this season with a catchy phrase: "Can Your Fines!"

Read that literally. Canned food has become a popular replacement for late fees at some middle and high schools. Owe a dollar on a late-returned library book? All can be forgiven for a can of beans.

The district does not set rules on the matter, leaving it to librarians to work out the details of can-for-money substitutions. The idea appears to have taken off by word-of-mouth endorsements.

"For some kids, I know paying the fines is probably not the easiest thing to do," said Darlene Meginnis, media specialist at New Tampa's Liberty Middle School, which started collecting cans last winter after hearing that another school did it. "I still want to hold them responsible for the late fee."

She makes a point of telling students that donating cans to charity is just as good — maybe even better — than paying into a media center fund. Some students donate out of need, others because they want to.

Thirteen-year-old Jasmine Morro didn't even have overdue books. Still, the seventh-grader recently brought canned turkey, peas, potatoes and bread to the Monroe Middle School media center.

"Not that many people around Tampa get to have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and I already know that I'm going to," she said. "I would like other people to have a wonderful Thanksgiving, too."

Like other schools, South Tampa's Monroe finds the pitch has special appeal during the holiday season.

Ferrell Middle School's Mike Saltzgaver began a fine-forgiveness can drive before Thanksgiving. He didn't set a firm stop date. He knows that cash can be hard for students to come by at an east Tampa school, where four out of five students qualify for federally subsidized lunches.

Instead, he tells students who racked up late fees to go into Mom's pantry and "take out stuff you don't like — lima beans, spinach, whatever."

"You guys are healing the hungry people out there in the world," Saltzgaver tells students when they bring in the cans, trying to promote community activism.

Other school libraries still stick with the traditional late book fine — generally 5 cents per day in middle and high schools.

But the canned food fine concept is catching on.

At Walker Middle School in Odessa, the media center has collected cans instead of fines during February for the past two years. The school promotes it as "Have a Heart Month."

High school media specialist Janet Drake has asked students to channel late fees into a can drive for as many as 10 years. She can't recall exactly where she got the idea to start program when she worked at Hillsborough High.

After that, she brought it to Chamberlain High, where a morning show announcement kicked off the "Can Your Fine" program. She asks students to surrender one can for every 50 cents in late fees. Yet the thought counts more than hard and fast rules on pennies owed and donation deadlines.

"I have such a big heart," Drake said. "When they're still bringing cans in, I don't say, 'No, we're back to fines.' So I end up collecting them through Christmas."

Letitia Stein can be reached at or (813) 226-3400. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at

Some schools libraries replace late fines with can drives 12/12/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 22, 2008 1:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. This Tampa Bay Lightning wing rides the newest wave of fan interaction

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — There are photos of Lightning fan Shaun Egger as a toddler at center ice at the then-Thunderome, aka Tropicana Field. He's played in the Lightning's high school hockey league for Palm Harbor University. But his closest personal encounter with players had been waving through a crowd after a training camp …

    Tampa Bay Lightning player J.T. Brown wears his anti UV glasses as he talks over the headset with a hockey fan while they play against each other on line in an XBOX NHL video game in Brown's game room at his home in south Tampa. The fan chose to be the Washington Capitals and Brown, of course, was the Tampa Bay Lightning. Brown interacts with fans through video game systems as he streams the games live on Twitch with plans for the proceeds to go to charity.
  2. Video: Rays Souza on that oh-so-bad dive, and reaction from Twins fans


    What was Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. thinking when he made that oh-so-bad dive for a ball in the seventh inning Friday? Well, we'll let him tell you ...

  3. What was Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. thinking on that comically bad dive?


    What could Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. been thinking in the seventh inning Friday when he dove for a ball and came up yards short?

    Actually, he insisted after all the laughing, teasing and standing ovation from the Twins fans was done, it was a matter of self-preservation.

  4. Judge tosses life sentences for D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo


    McLEAN, Va. — A federal judge on Friday tossed out two life sentences for one of Virginia's most notorious criminals, sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, and ordered Virginia courts to hold new sentencing hearings.

    A federal judge has tossed out two life sentences for D.C. sniper shooter Lee Boyd Malvo. [Associated Press, 2004]
  5. Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's national security adviser, dies


    Zbigniew Brzezinski, the hawkish strategic theorist who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter in the tumultuous years of the Iran hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s, died on Friday at a hospital in Virginia. He was 89.

    Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, participates in Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on March 5, 2009, in Washington, D.C. [Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]