Students have complained about the number of fines imposed by the University’s library – following a Exeposé Freedom of Information (FOI) revealing the University collected over £60,000 in fines in the past two academic years.
In 2015/16, the University collected £13,047 in library fines, a considerate decrease from an extortionate £50,307 the previous year. Nonetheless, students have expressed frustration towards library fees – in particular the Library’s method of “recalls,” which allows other students to request borrowed books to be returned within 24 hours.
Jenny Morton, third year classical studies student told Exeposé that “It’s irrational how much added pressure we have to deal with through the fines, especially when considering that students are so busy and can’t make proper use of the book. It’s not fair how someone can request a book back from me even if I’ve only had it for one day and then they can keep it for 6 weeks after that.”
The Library’s reformed policy on fining students has improved with regards to accommodating for student finances.
The 70% decrease in fees over the past two academic years is as a result of the Library’s adapted policy on borrowing. All students at the University are eligible to borrow library books at no charge and fees are no longer charged on borrowed material that has reached the six-week time limit of a standard loan. Renewing a loan can therefore extend this period.
However, in the case of recalls, the University of Exeter’s website states that, “to allow fair access to all materials for all students,” Students are required to pay a 50p fine per day after the recall of a book.
Former student Lucy Whitaker commented on the previous scenario circulating library fees: “I graduated two years ago and back then I had to pay £1 fine for the first day and then 50p per day after that, if a book was overdue. But for high demand books, which were the ones I used for my dissertation, I had to pay 50p per extra hour on the day after it was due, so I’d end up paying £3 in fines even if it was only a couple hours late.”
The Library’s reformed policy on fining students has improved with regards to accommodating for student finances. However, the system of recalls, along with fines on both locker keys and books that are high on demand automatically add fees to a student’s record, which must therefore be paid. In combination with University tuition fees, which are currently 9,000, along with accommodation fees and living costs, students have emphasized affordability issues that are associated with library fines.
Second year History and IR student, Dominic Hearn spoke to Exeposé about his experience with the library’s policy: “I think it’s outrageous to be honest, it’s really annoying that we have to pay extra money on top of our tuition. This is particularly unfair on less financially well off students, or ones with learning difficulties, such as myself, who might have a harder time remembering things like that.”
The library encourages students to “post books back to the library” during vacations, in order to prevent charges. Johannes Neumann spoke to Exeposé about his “ridiculous” experience with library fines during the summer period: “I borrowed some books just before the summer, however I came back in September to a £900 fine. After a series of emails and discussions, I was able to return and renew the books with a reduced charge of £45 per book.
it can disproportionately effect disabled students who find it difficult to get on campus and return the books.
“I could have bought them for less online, so it seems ridiculous that students don’t have the option of replacing the book for another copy, especially in the case of it being lost- seems more reasonable than giving them an arbitrary fine.”
The University’s strict rules on the time frame required for the return of books also accommodated postgraduate students who need academic material for their research. When discussing this topic with Kate Byard, a postgraduate student studying for an MA in critical theory, she empahsised the necessity for fines, whilst also highlighting the need for increased flexibility. “ I believe that library fines are arguably reasonable, particularly for postgraduate taught and postgraduate research students who need books at a quick turnaround. It is an important incentive to keep them coming back in time for our scheduled deadlines.”
“That being said, it can disproportionately effect disabled students who find it difficult to get on campus and return the books. It would be important to consider reasonable adjustments that also don’t have a knock on effect on other students.”
Following on the topic of library ‘recalls,’ the demanding nature of returning books immediately acts as an added burden for disabled students, who may be unable to satisfy the sharp deadline due to health complications. Bethany Payne, a second year Politics and Geography student spoke to Exeposé about her experience with the Library’s demanding nature for recalls: “ as a disabled student, especially as one with a variable condition, it can make it hard to plan returning library books and you can easily end up with fines just because you’re having a tough week, with regards to your health.
“ Having more flexibility with recalled books would be an incredible improvement, especially for disabled students.”