How many of us can honestly say that we have not racked up the occasional library fine? Deciding to hold onto that book a few days past the due date or ignoring the pesky request email as a deadline was coming up? Library fines, for most of us, are just a minor inconvenience, especially in deadline and exam season.
However, the amount of money that the University of Leeds has been taking in library fines over the last few years will probably shock you.
In 2018/19, a massive £23,084.39 was collected, and the year before even more, coming to £45,589.94. In 2016/17, the total amount was a whopping £54,112.42. Between 2016 and 2019 the university, therefore, collected a total of £122,777.04 from its students and staff in library fines.
In similar figures revealed in an FOI by the Courier at the University of Newcastle, the University there had similarly made £123,389 over the course of three academic years.
The current policy, according to the library website, is that fines are accrued for items that have been requested and for overdue 1-day loans.
The charges are £2.50 and £1 a day respectively. Once a fine goes above £35, you are no longer able to borrow a new book, and if you fail to return any, you will be invoiced for a replacement (the original of which has probably been stacked on a shelf somewhere or slipped down the side of the bed).
A spokesperson from the University of Leeds said:
“Fines only become due if a book is not returned after it has been requested by another user. The policy was developed in consultation with students, and we keep it under review and listen very closely to comments and feedback.”
A former masters student faced up to £500 in fines after she claimed the library told her she had lost over twenty books in the summer of 2019. In order to avoid the fines and take another book out for her dissertation, the student had to bring in all the books, check them in and check them out even though they lived over an hour from campus.
According to the library regulations, which can again be found on their website, fines are only reduced or waived if there is a good reason for the late return. There is, however, no obvious information about where this huge sum of money goes.
Humanities students, in particular, told the Gryphon that after a crucial book had been requested from them, they had still kept it until the deadline they needed it for, as that was more of a priority than the fine. One former student stated that she once gained a £30 fine, as she held onto a book for a 6,000-word extended essay, because there were no other copies.
Clearly that £7.50 here and that £2.50 there add up. Only a few of us seem to wrack up the occasional massive fine, and so to most, library fines are an inconvenience, which often seem to be wiped clean after the books are returned. But should we be more concerned about how much is being taken and where that money is going? On their websites, the library policy on this is not all too clear.
When asked, students claimed that they would like more clarity around the fines policy and what that money goes towards. Most wanted to know whether the money would go towards getting more copies of books, particularly ones which are often requested and can therefore lead to fines.
One final year French and History student commented that the money “should go towards buying more books aka the ones students request”.
A former International History and Politics student stated that she thought the money would go towards “the general costs of the library like staff/books etc which I’m ok with” but that “it would be interesting to have more transparency”.
While many also commented on the confusion surrounding when fines are waived, another final-year student stated that “it’s all very confusing”. She went on to say that she once received a fine on a 4-hour loan book, as “I get dyslexia extra time with books, so I assumed I had 6 hrs and that wasn’t true”.
However The Gryphon was later told that money from library fines is invested back into the libraries. The Gryphon was also told that there have been no recent changes to the policy, although the number of books you can take out has increased and “automatic renewal” has been implemented. This means that you do not accrue fines until a book is requested from you and you keep it longer than the return date given.
There are also on occasion extenuating circumstances in relation to fines.
More information on fines can be found here.