University libraries allow students to slash fines by donating to the Koori Centre

James Stratton reports

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Sydney University’s libraries have announced a new “fine amnesty” program to allow students to return overdue items for reduced fines, with the proceeds donated to the Koori Centre’s programs and services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

A student with $960 in fines could pay as little as $60 to clear the fines. This can be done through the online payment portal.

The program will run until Sunday 27 November, so students will have to move fast to take advantage. Presently, only a small number of students have taken up the offer.

Kimberley Williams, assistant manager of site services at the University Library, said the Library hopes to “clear or reduce fines in a positive way” by having long overdue library items returned, which will allow holders of long overdue items to resume borrowing, while raising funds for the Koori Centre. Items are classified as ‘long overdue’ if they have been reported as lost, or if they are over 32 days overdue.

This way we’re getting rid of fines, giving people the access to the physical collection back, and are giving to a group on campus that does great work supporting our current students, and in encouraging high school students from Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, and low SES backgrounds to engage with the University through Compass,” she said.

Students with long overdue items are charged either $150 or $320 for each item’s replacement, and prevented from further borrowing. If students return the items, the fine is reduced substantially, and they are able to continue borrowing. Under the new program, students can access a further fine reduction, and the fine will be cleared from their library record within three business days of payment. The scheme extends to all Sydney University libraries.

Proceeds from the program will go to the Koori Centre, a body within the University of Sydney providing services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. The centre makes available a computer laboratory, photocopying facilities, a tutorial room and a student and staff common room with kitchen facilities, in addition to a research library with materials specific to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues.

Williams said that the fines were most likely to go towards a scholarship provided by the centre, or the Compass program, a University of Sydney outreach program to low-SES, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and regional and remote students.