Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Library fines … and how not to pay them …

Library fines … and how not to pay them … Exclusive interview with Lynn Greenwood, Head of Lending Services at the Univ of Sheffield Library

One issue which crops up repeatedly on the library blogs is that contentious matter of library fines and book loan periods. Vic went along to meet Lynn Greenwood, the Library's Head of Lending Services, to find out why on earth library books can only be borrowed for a week and why students can accumulate £15.00 worth of fines quicker than they can shout 'give me the directions to Blackwell's.'

Lynn has the unenviable responsibility of ensuring that the library stock circulates effectively and she has the ultimate power to decide on loan periods, library fines and indeed all matters to do with lending services.

Vic: Lynn, thank you for agreeing to contribute to the Library Blogs. With around 25,000 students and over 1.3m items in stock, it must be no mean feat to ensure that the books circulate effectively amongst our students.

Lynn: That's right, the Library issued 1.6m books last year so it is big and busy business, especially in the Information Commons where much of our undergraduate borrowing takes place.

Vic: One of our students has commented that the Library at the University of Leeds has loan periods of 12 weeks. Why are our books issued for just a week at a time?

Lynn: This particular student was undertaking an intercalated research year and as such will have benefited from the longer loan periods afforded to researchers. The University of Sheffield also grants longer loans to our research students. Leeds issue all books on student reading lists for one week only and their loans policy appears to be fairly consistent with our own.

Vic: So why do we issue books to undergraduates for just one week at a time?

Lynn: In 2005 we surveyed students at each of the Library sites to ask them how they felt about the loan periods and the rate of fines and again a large number expressed concerns about not being able to get hold of the books they needed. We trialled a new loans policy; standard loans dependent on borrower status, a 2 day short loan, an increase in the number of renewals allowed and fines on all overdue items. We then surveyed the students again. The overall result was that on the whole the students approved of the new policy as it was easier to understand and meant that books circulate around much faster.

Vic: £15.00 as a maximum fine seems a bit steep though.

Lynn: If you are a student waiting for a book to be returned so that you can use it for an assignment you might feel differently. Contrary to what many students believe, we don't charge fines to generate revenue but rather to ensure that books are returned on time. We aim to give every student the chance to use the core textbooks relating to each assignment.

Vic: So the Library Assistants aren't paid commission for the amount of fine money they take then?

Lynn: lol. We wish! NO!!! All the fine money goes directly back into the book funds. The new loans procedures became library policy in September 2006 and, to make sure that no-one was caught out with an unexpected fine we also adopted a policy of waiving the first fine on every account at which point customers were handed a leaflet detailing all the library's lending policies and procedures.

The new policy has greatly speeded up the circulation of books but, as long as no one else wants the book the borrower can renew it indefinitely (though only 10 times online before we need to see it). As long as students keep their accounts up to date, and make sure that all books are either renewed or returned on time no-one needs to pay fines.

Renew your books online by using the myAccount function on the Library tab within MUSE.

Or use the renewals hotline 0114 22 27201

1 comment:

  1. The online renewal policy actually gives you a 10 week loan so long as you set yourself a reminder (or look at your uni email) and as mentioned in the article, you can effectively extend this again by coming in with the book as long as it isn’t reserved which I think is a fair policy. This even works on short loans.

    I only have one minor moan from a geeky point of view. From my experience, the online system emails to warn you that you have until 23:59 to renew the book. This isn’t absolutely true; you have until the library closing time. I have been caught out once or twice and fined even though I renewed on the day but past closing time! Luckily, last time this happened I got given my “get out of jail card” and let off of the fine. Now I tend to renew as soon as I’m emailed. Geeky fine avoiding tip of the day – check your uni email account regularly if you a have loan out, and renew as soon as you get the email. Geek on!