Postal Service changes affect Imagination Library program
By Joel Davis | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The U.S. Postal Service has cracked down on the mailing practices of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program, which a spokesman said have been costing the post office money.
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program, sponsored in Blount County by Maryville Kiwanis Foundation, mails out about 4,500 books per month that represent 65 percent of the eligible children in the county.
About 100 of those books are returned due to bad addresses.Kiwanis members had previously been accustomed to being able to pick up the returned books at the post office, but now the Postal Service is discarding them.
“All I know is that they allowed us to do this, and I guess they decided it was to be stopped,” said Herb Meyer, a Maryville Kiwanis Club member. “As I understand it, it’s nationwide. Hopefully, people will be more alert to getting their address changed, but it seems a shame to throw over 100 books away each month.”
David Walton, spokesman for Tennessee District of U.S. Postal Service, said the practice had been costly for the post offices.
“They are wanting to go pick those books up without paying that return fee,” he said. “We can’t afford that. They are wanting to ... bypass that fee that most other mailers pay. For some time, they have been getting away with that. It’s costing us money. We didn’t change any policy. We just wised up to what was going on. They can pay for this forwarding service, but obviously, they are not.”
The Postal Service is in financial straits. It lost $15.9 billion last fiscal year. As a cost-saving measure, it has announced plans to eliminate Saturday mail delivery starting Aug. 1. Post offices would still be open on Saturdays and packages would be delivered, but not carrier mail. Five-day delivery is expected to save the Postal Service $2 billion annually.
Meyer said one problem with the change is that the Kiwanis Club has no way to discover if an address is bad. “They will just keep mailing books to those bad addresses. We have no way of knowing which books get delivered. It’s a waste of nice books and it also costs us money.”
The Dollywood Foundation and the Books from Birth Foundation have been alerted to the problem, Meyer said.
345,000 books mailed
During the seven years of the program’s existence in Blount county, 345,000 books have been mailed to the registered children, birth to 5 years old. The $2 cost for each book is funded one-half by Kiwanis and the other half by the governor’s Books from Birth Foundation.
Parents can sign up at the Blount County Public Library, online, at pediatrician’s offices, United Way, Good Samaritan Clinic and Blount Memorial Hospital. Parents are encouraged to sign up their newborns so they will receive all 60 books. The BMH Birthing Center provides registration forms at the time of birth.
“The Kiwanis Club has raised and spent more than $350,000 in the seven years we’ve been doing this. It’s a major endeavor for a small service organization,” Meyer said.
The Imagination Library program began in 1996. Currently, more than 1,600 local communities provide the Imagination Library to almost 700,000 children each month.