|Read it Down.
(A classic from the archives)
Today at the library was one of our very exciting programs called Read-It-Down. So precious that we only do it once a month, Read-It-Down is a day that any child can come in and get a dollar credit for every 15 minutes of reading they do in the library. These credits, limited in value only by the time we are open that day (so $28 per bleary eyed child at the most), can be used towards any fines or fees accrued on their accounts. Like so much of what we do here at my library this is a well designed program that never fails to bring joy to everyone involved in it. The children check in for reading at the kids’ desk and, after reading, are rewarded with a carefully filled out voucher with their name, patron number, and the value of their reading time on it. From there they simply need to walk over to the Service Desk and get in line.
Because this is usually the busiest day of the month at my library they may have to wait awhile in that line, but once they get up to see one of us clerks, things could not move along more quickly. They give us their library card and voucher. We take the voucher and walk over to the kids’ desk to ask the librarian there to verify the information. Once they initial their verification we head to the Manager’s office for approval. With his or her initials on the voucher we’re ready to begin the fine waiving process.
Making sure that two clerks are present we call up the patron’s record with their library card. We ask each other “Do you verify that this is the child, or a family member of the child, who earned this voucher?” If we both can answer “Yes” we ask the child to confirm that he or she would like to apply their voucher to these fines. If they confirm that they would like to we note it on a “Sheet of Intention” form. We fill it out with the patron’s information, address, date of birth, etc., and both the clerks and the child sign it. Then, while one of us blows up a blue balloon with a nearby helium tank, the other clerk asks the child “Would you rather have this beautiful blue helium balloon instead of the credits being applied to your account?”
If the child chooses the blue balloon we are to write “VOID” on the voucher in red ink, place it in a County approved ashtray, and burn it until the entire paper is fully consumed. Then we hand over the helium balloon.
If the child declines the balloon we are to pop it, but as quietly as possible.
Unfortunately some of my co-workers have had to be spoken to for popping the balloon too noisily.
Once the balloon is popped we are ready to waive fines!
But first we take the “Sheet of Intention” form over to a backroom computer that has been set to username “SheetofIntention” (password not listed here for obvious security reasons). We enter the child’s name, value of voucher, and voucher number into the Read-It-Down system. Unfortunately we do not yet have the voucher numbers printed on the vouchers. So we must call down to Automation Services and be issued a voucher number. When we have entered all that we are given a Waive Code and a 22-digit information number. The second clerk then enters their personal Read-It-Down pin number and we close the system. We head back to the service desk.
At this point we issue an “I read it down” kitten sticker to the child. We inform them that accepting this sticker will in no way imperil the value of their voucher. It’s free! This is just another great feature of our Read-It-Down program!
We open the Read-It-Down ledger to its current page and ask the child or the child’s proxy to sign in. There is a space there for comments that we don’t use so as to not waste anyone’s time. We note the time of day and the weather observations in the appropriate spaces. We ink the child’s thumb and have him or her press it in the corresponding box to leave a single thumbprint. We issue the child a wet wipe for their thumb.
Meanwhile another balloon is blown up at the helium machine, this time a red one. We bring it to our artist volunteer lady who draws a tiger face on it. If the child starts crying we present him or her with a bicentennial quarter. If that doesn’t help we ask if they’d like another “I read it down” kitten sticker. If the parent or guardian says to us “What the hell is wrong with you people?” We reply “What the hell is wrong with you lady (or pal), making your kid work to get rid of a bunch of fines that are your fault anyway!”
Then we usually have to go get the Manager.