While you were alternately lying on beaches and sheltering under umbrellas over summer, USYD’s libraries were busy overhauling their fines system. The changes, which came into effect on January 7, followed a 2012 review of loan and fine conditions. According to University Librarian, Anne Bell, the main aim of the changes was to eliminate fines for items that were not in high demand.
The new system will generally ease the library squeeze on students and improve access to high-demand material. Users may now borrow general collection items for a period of 12 weeks, up from 8 weeks, and then renew the item even if it is overdue. If it is overdue, there are now no fines for 32 days unless a fellow library user has recalled it.
The bad news is that where fines are now due, they are much higher. If a recalled item is not returned within ten days, the fine is $10 per day (up from $2). If a 2 Hour Collection item is returned late, the fine is similarly $10 per hour (up from $2.50). The rationale, Bell explained, was to discourage borrowers from not returning items required by others.
The real trouble is if you lose a book. Before the changes, the minimum lost item charge was an intimidating $160, including a $30 processing and administration fee. The minimum charge has now doubled to $320. This includes a $200 replacement fee and a $120 processing fee. Bell described the processing fee as covering some of the costs of staff time involved in processing and replacing lost items. She wrote to Honi: “Even when the client chooses to replace the item, an extensive range of processes have to be carried out to ensure our records are accurate.” The $200 figure was apparently based on average book prices in 2011. Honi Soit wagers that the libraries have not yet discovered The Book Depository.
Although the surviving fines are certainly high, cries of revenue-raising are probably misplaced. Based on historic data, Bell expects fines revenue to decrease.