An increase in library fines for materials returned late or lost has outraged the ANU student community. Users of the library will now be charged $30 per item per day in late fees, with a maximum fine of $220 per item, as opposed to the earlier fee of $4. The fine to 2 hour collection items has been increased to $12 for the first hour, and $6 for each subsequent hour.

Speaking to University Librarian Roxanne Missingham, she said that while “she would be very happy if we raised not one dollar from fines,” the changes were necessary.

“We were concerned that a few students were taking out books and keeping them for the semester which made them unavailable to other students doing the course, and then paying very little or nothing if the fee was waived,” Missingham said.

“I have had a number of students comment strongly on how difficult it is to study when they can’t get access to the reading material through the library. Making those students either go without the readings or having to purchase the readings is not a good outcome.”

“My goal is that no one will have to pay a fine as they will return books on time, renew them, or speak to library staff before material is overdue to explain their circumstances and have appropriate action taken by the library.”

Although the Library has experienced budgetary limitations (we reported late last year that there had been a total freeze on purchasing non-critical textbooks – read here), Missingham insists that this new policy has nothing to do with generating profit.

“If anyone thinks that we are doing this to raise revenue they are incorrect, and our goal is to assist better the students who miss out on access to resources when a small number of individuals keep material out without renewing.”

In most other universities around the world, particularly within top 25 QS rankings and the Australian Group of Eight, the daily fine does not exceed USD$1 per day. Some universities, however, such as McGill University, have a higher fine up to $5. Fines for 2 hour collection items are similarly varied.

According to Missingham, these changes resulted from consultation with stakeholders, including the undergraduate and postgraduate associations ANUSA and PARSA that took place back in 2014, 2 years ago. Woroni is currently awaiting comment from ANUSA and PARSA to understand the input that these organisations gave to the consulting process.

“I am sorry that the processes in ANU have been a bit slow so it has taken a while for the increase to be put into place,” Missingham said.

Missingham also stated that the amount of available digital material was going to be increased to compensate.

“Last year, borrowing from the print collection reduced by over 20% [to just over two million], while use of electronic resources increased by 37% [to 5 million].”

It is unclear at this stage whether the use of electronic resources includes material obtained from the Wattle site, or whether this increase to library fines will further reduce borrowing over the coming year.

This article has been amended to better reflect the range of fines in other universities. We apologise for the inconvenience.

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