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19th February 2018

Manchester University students fined £29k by library last year

Manchester Metropolitan University’s book fines’ income last year was £66,772, more than double Manchester University’s
Manchester University students fined £29k by library last year
Image: DPOrman @ Commons Wikimedia

Students at the University of Manchester (UoM) were issued £29, 557 in library fines during the academic year 2016-2017, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.

A series of Freedom of Information requests indicated that 130 Universities and University colleges collected more than £3.5 million-worth of library fines between September 2016 to August 2017.

The University of Oxford had the highest books fines’ income over the past year, issuing £167,689 of fines, followed by King’s College London (£113,726) and the University of Cambridge (£98,487).

A University of Manchester library spokesperson said: “Fines are currently the most effective way to ensure books are returned promptly to the library and made available for other students. The library only issues fines on overdue books when they are needed — ie another student has reserved the book triggering a recall at the end of the current loan — or the book is part of the High Demand collection (items recommended as essential texts on reading lists by teaching staff).

“The vast majority of our students support the current fines policy, as it works to ensure books that are in demand are returned promptly and available to those who need them. Fines are not a financial consideration — they are an incentive to return books on time and ensure other students who need the texts are not left frustrated.”

Books can be borrowed from the main collections of the various University of Manchester libraries across campus for a full semester, while items in the High Demand collections may be borrowed for one night.

Items borrowed from the main collections of the library may be subject to early recall, if another customer wishes to borrow the item during its lease. If a standard loan is recalled, students will be notified by email and have seven days in which to return the item, unless the due date is already within 7 days.

Failure to return any books by the return date results in a temporary blocking of customers’ library accounts and a overdue fine of £2 per day, while the daily fine rate for items borrowed from the High Demand section is 50p per hour or part of an hour, not including weekends. Maximum charges per book from any section is £20.

Some institutions do not collect library fines, including the University of Bath and the University of Chichester, while others have an auto-book renewal in order to reduce students’ costs.

The UoM library spokesperson commented: “An auto-renewal policy would have no impact on fines – such a policy would not apply to recalled or high demand books, and it is only when these texts are not returned that a fine is issued. If a book is not required by another student, it can be renewed for up to 10 years – the library will issue an email reminder, and the renewal process can be completed quickly and easily on our website.”

Commenting on the revelation, Alex Tayler, General Secretary of the Students’ Union, said: “Whilst I wouldn’t want to encourage the University to take any more money off students than it already does, I think that library fines are a good way of ensuring that students share resources fairly. If you don’t give your book back in time or lose it then you are preventing another student from accessing the resource.

“Fines encourage people to look after the books properly and return them promptly. I would want to speak with the library to discuss how it fines people and how effective they think it is but I don’t have anything against the fines in principle.”

University of Manchester undergraduate and taught postgraduate students have a loan quota of up to 25 books per semester, while research postgraduate students can borrow up to 40 books per semester.

Full details on the University library’s policies regarding borrowing and returning books can be found on the library’s website.

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