ASHLAND – Last month, Ashland Public Library tried something new.

The library agreed to give patrons a clean slate, wiping out overdue fines in exchange for donations of non-perishable foods and household items for local charities.

In just one week, the library collected 736 items for Associated Charities, Ashland County Council on Aging, Catholic Charities, Rape Crisis Domestic Violence Safe Haven and The Salvation Army Kroc Center.

The response was far greater than library director Heather Miller expected. And particularly surprising and heartwarming, Miller said, was the fact that library staff members contributed more than half of those items.

Miller said she told staff members they could donate items on behalf of patrons. For each item donated, one outstanding line item on a patron’s account would be removed.

Line items can be as little as 10 cents for an item that was one day overdue or as much as several dollars for an item returned a few months late, Miller said. Fees for lost or damaged materials were not waived as part of the program.

“This was truly about paying it forward, adn our staff was so generous in donating,” Miller said.

At the end of the collection period, which ran March 17-23, fines on children’s accounts were cleared first. When no children’s fines remained, adult accounts were chosen from a randomized list to benefit from the staff’s generosity.

“I requested that we do children first because I felt that would have the biggest impact in the community,” Miller said.

In total, $567.90 in fines were cleared.