Fines paid to the Library of Trinity College Dublin (the Library) have dropped significantly following the introduction of a new borrowing system designed to encourage the return of items in high-demand among readers.
Records released to Trinity News under the Freedom of Information Act 2014 reveal that the Library received €57,071.95 in fines during the 2018/2019 academic year, representing only 25% of the total fines paid over the last three years.
€84,584.04 was paid in fines to the Library in 2017/2018, a slight drop from the €87,187.15 paid in 2016/2017. In total, the Library received €228,843.14 in fines over the last three years.
In a statement to Trinity News, a spokesperson for College explained that fines are used to “fund the College’s purchase costs for additional print and electronic resources (print books and e-books) to support the students’ reading list priorities”.
“The Library uses the mechanism of overdue fines to ensure that books are promptly returned and available on the shelves for the study and research needs of all our students,” the spokesperson continued.
During the same period, the Library waived €122,218.39 worth of overdue library fines, amounting to 53% of all fines issued. The amount of fines waived by the Library dropped from €54,004.01 in 2016/2017 to €36,686.03 in 2017/2018 and fell further again to €31,528.35
Last year, the Library introduced an overhaul of its borrowing system which saw staff and students allowed to borrow more books for longer periods of time when they are not requested by other readers. New mechanisms were also introduced to recall books which are in high demand more quickly.
Under the Library’s new scheme, penalties for unreturned items were updated in order to “work in tandem with the new rules to encourage the return of high-demand items”. The change allows for the return date on an item to change while it is on loan to the borrower if another reader requests the item.
“We are pleased to say that these new loan regulations are showing a reduction in the amount of library fines collected,” College’s spokesperson outlined.
The Library charges standard fines on overdue items borrowed by students at a rate of 50c per item for each day the item is not returned, while fines on items borrowed by students which have been recalled by another reader are charged at a rate of €1 per item, per day. Fines for public libraries in Ireland were abolished for all users in January under a plan to double library members, and existing fines were wiped from the system.
Maynooth University Library adopted a similar policy earlier this year, becoming the first higher education institution in Ireland to move away from fines for late returns.
Fines for standard loan items, which may be borrowed from the library for three weeks, were abolished under Maynooth University’s new loan scheme. Fines are charged on these items only if they are recalled and assigned a revised return date. If the item remains unreturned on the revised due date, a fine is charged at a rate of €1 per day.
Libraries in colleges across Ireland collected €2,786,930 in fines between September 2010 and January 2016, with Trinity collecting the highest fines of any university, amounting to €597,925 over the five and a half year period. University College Dublin (UCD) generated €361,007 in fines over the same period, while Dublin University College (DCU) collected €278,670.
Former Union of Students’ in Ireland (USI) President Annie Hoey suggested that colleges should place a cap on fines collected from students, warning that the cost of fines could put students at a “severe disadvantage”.