Forgetful students in Manchester and Salford have racked up more than £1.5million in university library fines over the last three years.
MM can reveal that the University of Manchester has issued more than £560,000 worth of fines since 2010, Manchester Metropolitan charged students nearly £465,000 and Salford dished out fines of more than £515,000.
In the last academic term alone Salford University issued £47,095 in fines while Manchester charged £51,841.
Gill Barry, Head of Library Services at Manchester Metropolitan, said: “What libraries are always trying to do is keep books in circulation so that they can benefit lots of readers.
“Loan periods, fines and loan limits all help to achieve good circulation.”
She says that fines combined with a limit on the number of items someone can borrow at a time deter library users from returning books late.
Students at the three universities face charges of 20p a day for overdue items on standard loan, and short loans carry the heavy fine of 50p per hour.
Students at Manchester Metropolitan can be charged up to £30 per item in some cases, and all the universities stop students from borrowing items if they rack up excessive fines.
At the University of Manchester an automatic block is placed on student’s cards when fines on their account reach £10.
All three universities allow students to renew books online multiple times, so even if students are away from University they can avoid being charged.
A Salford University spokesman said: “We also have 24 hour access to our library sites in order for students to be able to drop off their returns and we actively promote electronic resources which don’t have late fees attached.”
E-resources are becoming increasingly common in libraries across the UK – they are accessed rather than borrowed and available 24/7 from anywhere in the world.
Ms Barry said: “There are no fines associated with these because the way that access is normally unrestricted – they can be accessed by large numbers of users at any one time and are freely available to any of our staff and students.”
The universities also operate a number of schemes to encourage returns or renewals such as email reminders.
All library fines paid to each of the universities are reinvested back into its libraries and facilities.
Salford University have recently announced that they will invest £1million in library services, primarily at their Clifford Whitworth site.
A spokesman from Salford University says that the improvements will not be funded by income generated from library fines, however.
Last year, it was revealed that UK universities raised almost £50million from library fines for the six academics years from 2004/05.
The University of Manchester, which collected almost £1.3million, ranked second place in the country, coming behind Leeds who accrued more than £1.8million.
No one there was available for comment.
It was also alleged last year that former Manchester City footballer, Mario Balotelli, walked into Manchester University’s John Rylands library and offered to pay off all library fines.
MM asked students in Manchester and Salford what they thought about their university’s library fines system.
Sarah Hobart, 22, a first year International Relations and Politics student at Salford University, said: “I get an email the day before any books are due back which is really good, and the email contains a link where you can renew the books online.”
Becky Burns, 22, a former textiles student at Manchester Metropolitan, said: “When I was at university I was given a fine of £75, I’m quite forgetful and forgot to return the 15 books I had on loan.
“I think it was unfair because they didn’t email me or ring me or give me any warning.”
Michael Eccles, 22, a third year nursing student at the University of Manchester, said: “I don’t really use the library services, but I remember at school they got rid of book fines and just sent out a bill for the price of any books not returned by the end of the year.
“It seemed to work better but I guess the libraries at university cannot afford to have resources out for months on end.”
Sebastian Chan Fong, 18, a first year Modern History with Economics student at the University of Manchester, said: “I think the fines are fine, but they could be a bit more lenient on high demand items, perhaps 20p instead of 50p for every hour it’s overdue.
“If they didn’t have fines, not all students would have fair access to the books. I think fines are justified to an extent, as long as the money us indeed spent on improving services for students rather than wasted on admin.”
Mancmedic14 on The Student Room Forum, said: “I currently have a £50 fine. I’m a medical student and therefore get placed all over the North West and am very rarely on campus.
“My month loan book got recalled with a week notice and with exams coming I couldn’t get back from Blackburn.”
He says he started to incur fines and intended to take the book back when exams had finished, he then received an email invoicing him for the book as it was two weeks overdue.
The book was returned and the library did rescind the invoice, but the fine stands at £50.
He said: “I have heard lots of stories from good friends who’ve had library fines waived and others who have had exam results withheld until fines are paid.”
“Such a non-uniform approach simply adds to the annoyance that I have a huge fine.”
Picture courtesy of Stephen Richards via WikiCommons, with thanks.