Late books? That’ll be £42,000…

3 March 2011

The University Library raised almost £42,000 in library fines last year. The figures, obtained by The Cambridge Student under the Freedom of Information act, reveal that the University Library (UL) charged users £41,925.91 during the 2009-10 academic year.

The figure stands in stark contrast to those of other Cambridge libraries, the Central Science Library having accumulated a mere £111.00, and the Betty & Gordon Moore Library, £104.00. Yet, the UL’s figures represent the pinnacle of a wider grievance. This figure, for 2009-2010, accumulated in the year prior to the decision to allow first and second year undergraduates to borrow books was made.

Cambridge University students expressed concern at the figure. One Magdalene third year, who did not wish to be named, having admitted to having a book overdue since last summer, said: “the fees seem reasonable; at least they seem to be, but they soon rack up. I probably owe around £70 by now.” Hasiatu Kamara, a first year historian from Newnham College said: “we’re being ripped off”

The book recorded as longest overdue in the year 2009-2010, Ian Cunnison’s ‘Power and Lineage in a Sudanese Nomad Tribe’, is not one on which many students would be reluctant to loosen their grip.

Generating the largest fines were, again amusingly, Ronald Dong’s ‘Nuclear Magnetic Resonance of Liquid Crystals’ and Garrison and Fielding’s ‘History of Paediatrics’

Claiming to charge only 25p per day for overdue books, it is unclear as to how the UL reached such a huge figure.

Sue Mehrer, Deputy Librarian of the University Library, defended the figure, claiming it was “fairly modest…when compared to other major libraries”. She claimed: “The average library fines income per University stands at £100,020 according to a recent article in The Times. That the figure constitutes only 0.35% of the UL’s income”.

With borrowing rights now extended to all undergraduates, it looks like the UL will make even more next year.

Alice Gormley & Emily Loud

Photo Credit: Steve Cadman