The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has voiced concern that rising library fines are potentially being used by universities as a “money making mechanism.” Figures obtained by The Herald under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that students paid a total of €2,786,930 in library fines over a five year period. These fines were as a result of overdue books. Included in the figures were Ireland’s seven universities; Trinity, Maynooth University (MU), University College Dublin (UCD), Dublin City University (DCU), University of Limerick (UL), University College Cork (UCC) and NUI Galway (NUIG). Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) and Waterford IT (WIT) were also included.
The biggest contributors to the figure were Trinity students who paid €597,925 over the period of September 2010 to January 2016. This accounts for 21.5% of the overall fines paid by Irish students. The fine for a standard overdue book in Trinity is €0.50 a day, increasing to €1 after 14 days. Counter Reserve (Short Loan) Collection items are charged at €0.25 an hour. Students are unable to graduate should they have outstanding library fees or overdue books. Those attempting to graduate with outstanding fines or overdue books receive a “Proctor’s Letter” prior to their commencement and are charged an additional €25 “administration fee.”
USI President, Annie Hoey, has called for a cap on library fines to be introduced in all college libraries and for more accountability as to where the money generated from fines is being allocated. Hoey voiced concern over the transformation of library fines from a reprimand to a “substantial cost, which puts students at a severe disadvantage.” Hoey continued that if it became “quite apparent” that library fines being used “simply as a money-making mechanism, obviously we would have concerns about that.”
DIT, which accounted for €312,694 of the total fines paid by students, imposes a €30 maximum fine per item with students permitted to withdraw six books at a time. UCD imposes a maximum fine of €50. Trinity’s library website does not mention a maximum fine but does warn students that once their fines have surpassed €10 they will not be able to withdraw any further books from the library. A college spokesperson was unavailable for comment when contacted.