Tech drives 25% drop in library fines

Victoria Woolley - News Reporter 8 June 2009

Increased use of technology at the University Library has led to a 25% drop in the level of fines paid by readers. In the academic year 2007-8 the library charged £20,503 in late fines and replacement charges for lost books, compared to £27,635 in the previous year.
Speaking to The Cambridge Student (TCS), Acting Deputy Librarian Sue Mehrer said that the sharp drop was a result of the email reminder system introduced in September 2007.

Ms. Mehrer said email is both ‘much quicker’ than the old method of sending reminders via UMS and more efficient as students ‘use email much more regularly’.
The drop in late fines is being viewed as a vindication of the recent changes to the library’s operations rather than as any sort of financial concern and staff maintain that they’re simply glad to have the books back on time. Ms Mehrer told TCS that the UL ‘operates…by trusting that books will be returned’ and that fines ‘are only levied as an incentive for books to be returned on time’.

Another major contributor to the drop in late returns is thought to be the online renewals system introduced 18 months ago. Since students have been able to renew loans online, 77% of renewals have been made using the internet. The increased convenience of the online system is thought to have encouraged students to renew their loans on time.

Other recent changes made by the library include extended loan periods for undergraduates during the Christmas and Easter vacations. These extensions to the usual two-week loan period mean that undergraduates can borrow University Library books during the vacations, without incurring hefty fines because they are not in Cambridge to return them. Despite these improvements to the library’s systems, some readers are still managing to build up massive fines. The biggest fine of the year was accrued by a reader of Tradition and Innovation in Hellenistic Poetry, with a massive £75 in late fees and replacement costs. Even this is smaller than the record fine of recent years however, a late fee and replacement cost of £96.59 for a particularly disorganised reader of Gregory of Nyssa: Homilies on the Beatitudes.

Victoria Woolley – News Reporter