US Postal Service stops discarding Imagination Library books
By Joel Davis | (email@example.com)
The U.S. Postal Service has reversed course on a policy that led to its discarding returned books originally mailed out by Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program.
Back in February, The Daily Times learned that in Blount County the postal service had begun turning away volunteers from the Maryville Kiwanis Foundation instead of allowing them to retrieve about 100 books per month that were being mailed to bad addresses.
It was part of a postal service decision that affected all the counties served by the program. That has changed, though.
“We’re allowing those volunteers to pick up those books,” said David Walton, spokesman for Tennessee District of U.S. Postal Service. “We have been working with that group. All of this came about because their addressing system just wasn’t up to date on the books. The recipients were moving, and there was no place for the books to go.
“It looks like they are really making some efforts to get this problem resolved. We’ve been working with that group to help them update their mailing lists. We have regular meetings with them. They’ve been very cooperative. Everything has been going smoothly. We always like to work with our customers.”
Kiwanis volunteer Herb Meyer said the postal service had agreed to study the issue for six months. “We are able to pick up books,” he said.
Parents who have signed their children up for the program need to make sure they have updated their addresses.
There has been progress made since February, Meyer said. “It seems like I’m getting more address changes than I used to,” he said. “... We’re not getting quite as many books returned as we used to.”
The original decision to discard the books was made for financial reasons. In February, the postal service said Imagination Library did not pay the return fees other mailers did and returning the books was costly. The Postal Service is in financial straits. It lost $15.9 billion in fiscal year 2011.
During the seven years of the program’s existence in Blount county, more than 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 it has participated. 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.