Nothing fine about late fees

The circulation desk at the Tuttleman Learning Center reports that you have an outstanding balance of $15. He goes over the policy, stating that you are unable to take out any more books until your

The circulation desk at the Tuttleman Learning Center reports that you have an outstanding balance of $15. He goes over the policy, stating that you are unable to take out any more books until your fee has been cleared. This can’t be right.

You definitely returned those books you used for your anthropology paper months ago. Just as you are about to launch into your defense, a vision of the mountain of books on your desk flashes into your mind. Embarrassed and defeated, you apologize and walk out of the library.

As a precaution, you glance over your shoulder to make sure they didn’t send the fine-enforcer after you. Late fees always seem to come out of nowhere, yet from 2005 to 2006 Paley Library accumulated $47,156 in late fees, according to the Circulation/
Reserve Statistics.

Steven Bell, the associate librarian for research at Paley Library, said that the library is not making money off of this income.

“I tend to look at it as money used to give back to the community, used to buy new books, and repair damaged books,” he said.

Students and faculty may borrow unlimited
materials from the library, unless they have a current balance of $10 or more. Undergraduates and staff members may check out materials for four weeks. Honors undergraduates, graduates, faculty, administration and library staff have the length of a semester borrow items. Overdue fines are not as scary as they seem. The charge is 25 cents a day for general
circulation materials, $1 a day for recalled items, and a $7.50 processing charge added to items 60 days overdue.

The 60-day mark is when students find themselves in trouble – especially when the fines start to build up. After receiving a notice, borrowers have 21 days to return, pay a standard replacement fee of $50 or replace the book on their own. If students replace the book on their own, all other fines are dropped.

“We encourage students to find replacements,” said Penelope Myers, department head of Access Services at Paley, who recommended or as less expensive routes in dodging steep replacement fees. For first time offenders, however, the library may be more lenient.

“With undergraduates it is an impediment,”
Myers said, adding that the library usually
grants an “amnesty to first time fees.”

In the event of a $50 late fee debt, the library will start to be less friendly and enforce the fine. The library is also in rights to prevent borrowers from registering for classes or obtain a hold on the borrower’s transcript copies.

But they do send borrowers weekly e-mail reminders.Intense library fines are more common among graduate students than undergrads.

“Graduates take out a huge numbers of books for dissertations,” Myers said. An easy way to prevent this unfortunate circumstance is to check “My Library Account” on the Diamond Libraries Catalog homepage, Borrowers can see if they have any materials checked out, balances overdue, or renew currently checked out materials.

Renewing library materials online can save time and prevent unnecessary trips to the library, but all materials must be renewed before the due date. Unfortunately fines cannot be paid online, but Diamond Dollars
can be used as payment at the library.

“Our objective is not to create barriers,” Bell said. “Our goal is to create more access.” Though no one likes late fees, they are here to stay.

Both Myers and Bell said no revisions to the policy will be made in the near future, but they do hope to make the environment more user-friendly.

“We would like to get away from the bad librarian image of threatening people with fines and shhh-ing students to be quiet,” Myers said.

Laura Yacoe can be reached at

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