The Vermont Library is waiving damaged book fees if you submit a photo of a pet or baby

We like to think that our furry friends are always very good boys and girls, but sometimes they chew things they shouldn’t: furniture, clothes, large sums of money and books. Many books.

Libraries across the country regularly receive returned books with a love bite or two. The Middleton Public Library in Middleton, Wisconsin, is no exception.

“We completely understand that accidents happen,” said Katharine Clark, deputy director of the library.

In the past, people who returned damaged books were responsible for financing a replacement.

“Sometimes they’re nervous when they come to tell us,” Clark said. “We don’t want one damaged thing to destroy their relationship with the library.”

So the Middleton Public Library staff came up with a plan. They created a new policy.

Damaged book fees are waived under one condition: the patron must submit a photo of the cat, dog (or sometimes child) behind the violation.

“We thought it would just be a fun thing we could do at our library,” Clark said, adding that they were inspired by the Worcester Public Library’s “March Meowness” initiative, which forgave fines for damaged or lost library books when customers submitted a photo of a cat – theirs or someone else’s.

“It really shows a fun side of the library,” says Clark, adding that when they started the policy, they decided to post the pet photos on social media, with the approval of the person who sent them.

“We understand that library materials can look delightful to pets and young children, which is why the Middleton Public Library has unveiled a new policy for fatally vandalized materials: In lieu of payment for the item, we’d like to offer you the opportunity to take a photo to submit from the beloved perpetrator,” the library wrote in its first Facebook post about the policy, which featured a dog named Daisy chewing on “The Guest” by BA Paris.

Enthusiastic responses poured in.

“*resists the temptation to give library books to my cat just so I can share photos*” one person wrote.

Clark said she didn’t expect the library’s new policy to be a success, but sure enough, the second post — about an American Water Spaniel named Quik devouring a novel — got thousands of people sharing it. The post was liked more than 18,000 times.

“For context: normally we are very happy with a few dozen likes. It was fascinating to see how a post goes viral,” said Rebecca Light, a librarian who works on the library’s social media team. “We’ve seen comments, shares and followers from all over the world.”

Since the policy was unveiled in late April, four dog culprits have come forward, including Stephanie Thomsen’s 1-year-old Australian labradoodle, Sky.

“He chews up quite a few shoes. He’s never gone after a book,” Thomsen said.

That changed a few weeks ago, when Sky was sitting on her bed and Thomsen left the room for a few minutes. She came back and he was nibbling on the edge of Rebecca Yarros’ ‘Iron Flame’.

When Thomsen went to return the damaged book, she expected to pay for it. But the library told her she could send a photo of her dog instead.

“It shows grace and understanding,” she said. “This is also a way to promote that libraries are fun and welcoming.”

Library patron Jean Ligocki recently discovered that her borrowed book, “Lifelong Yoga,” had been stolen. There were two suspects.

“We didn’t know if it was Ward or Ned, but knowing their personalities, we think Ward is the culprit,” said Ligocki, noting that she has two goldendoodles at home: Ned, 8, and Ward, 7.” Ward has quite a big appetite and likes to chew things.”

Ligocki was happy to hear about the library’s new policy, which she said is both funny and fair.

“Anything that keeps access open for people who may be disadvantaged and may not have the money to pay a damaged book fee, I like that,” she said.

The library plans to continue the policy indefinitely.

“People love their pets, and people love to read,” Clark says. “This combines two things that people love.”

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