Wisconsin Library Waives Damage Fees for Pets Behind Damage: A Heartwarming Initiative

Libraries are always looking for innovative ways to support their patrons, especially when it comes to unforeseen mishaps. One Wisconsin library has come up with a delightful solution to deal with material damages caused by pets. Instead of charging fines, patrons can share photos of the mischievous pet responsible for the damage, and the library will waive the fees. This creative initiative not only alleviates the financial burden but also normalizes material damages, fostering a sense of community.

The Inspiration Behind the Initiative

Earlier this year, Worcester Public Library in Massachusetts introduced "March Meowness," a program to help cardholders with fines due to damaged or lost items. The library, already eliminating overdue fines, decided to waive fees for damaged or missing items if patrons showed a photo or drawing of a cat. This program quickly gained popularity, inspiring other libraries to adopt similar initiatives. Taking inspiration from Worcester's success, Middleton Public Library outside of Madison, Wisconsin, decided to implement a policy that allows patrons with damaged materials to have their fines waived by sharing a photo of the culprit. The Middleton library also shares these pet photos on their social media with permission, adding a personal touch to their community outreach.

Community Response to the Program

"The reaction has been wild," said Rebecca Light, support services librarian at Middleton Public Library, in an interview with The Dodo. “The second post featuring the dog Quik really took off.” This program aims to reduce the costs of replacing damaged materials for patrons and has the added benefit of normalizing material damages. It’s a relief for many patrons to know that their beloved pets’ antics won't result in hefty fines or a loss of library privileges.
The normalization of material damage helps reduce anxiety around returning items, especially when the damage wasn’t intentional or caused by the borrower.

The Positive Impact of Normalizing Material Damages

While no library would encourage causing damage purposefully, showcasing these stories helps reduce anxiety among patrons. It aids in understanding that unintentional damages happen and that it’s not the end of the world. According to a study by the American Library Association, stress reduction and a welcoming environment are crucial for fostering strong library communities. Personally, I’ve had to explain that my rabbit ate the pages of a book, and knowing I wouldn’t be penalized has been a huge relief.

Implementation and Future Prospects

Library staff came up with this idea inspired by Worcester’s cat program and tailored it to their community. Deputy Library Director Katharine Clark said that so far, four patrons have utilized the program, noting that it alleviates the worries some patrons have about damaged materials potentially affecting their library privileges. “A program like this removes barriers to library access and fosters a sense of trust and understanding between the library and its patrons,” said Clark. Initiatives like these can be a valuable template for other libraries looking to improve their patron relations and extend their support.

More Community-Focused Library Programs

Such innovations are part of a broader movement to make libraries more accessible and user-friendly. For example, some libraries offer “Read Away Your Fines” programs where patrons, especially children, can read to reduce their fines. These initiatives are part of a larger effort to ensure libraries remain inclusive spaces for all members of the community. To read more about innovative library programs, check out this article on a Massachusetts library's cat photo program on Book Riot.


Libraries are essential to our communities, providing not just books but also a space for engagement, learning, and support. Innovative programs like the one at Middleton Public Library highlight the evolving role of libraries and their commitment to adapting to the community's needs. Looking for some bookish gear? Check out the wonderful offerings at Liam and Lore, where you can find everything from tote bags to cozy reading socks. Their products are perfect for those who love to read and want to show off their literary style.
May 28, 2024 — Kristin James