University librarian: ‘Fines are a necessary evil’

The University of Lincoln GCW Library last week revealed that they had raised almost £200,000 from fines over the past two years, leading students to ask what the library’s money was being invested in.


University librarian Ian Snowley explained that fines are necessary to ensure students return books. Photo: Tom Larken

Ian Snowley, a university librarian, spoke to The Linc to give students an insight into what library funds are being spent on and to tell students why they fine people: “We don’t exactly make a hoot of what we spend our money on. What we want is students to come in and think ‘well I want this and it’s there’, so that you almost don’t need to be told we are doing it.

“The first thing to say about fines is that they’re a bit of a necessary evil. If we didn’t have fines, we’d have much more difficulty keeping the stock moving and that is of course the number one priority for us.

Snowley continued: “We want books to be available for students and sadly we haven’t got as much money as we’d like to buy stock. Of course we’d like to do more and we’re always being asked to do more. So what we have to do on our budget is make sure we do as much as we can with what we have and fines, unfortunately, seem to be the best way to do that.”

Some students have been critical of the library though after amassing large fines from overdue books. Snowley explained that there are some exceptional circumstances in which fines wouldn’t be issued: “We’re always sympathetic to students. If somebody says I got ill and couldn’t bring the book back or I left it at home with my parents and I really couldn’t do anything about it, we always listen sympathetically and make a determination as to whether the fine is fair or not.

“We know the financial pressures on students are hard enough so the last thing we want to do is add to that.”

He also went on to talk about what the fines go towards: “The way the library budget works then is that fines are one of the lines of income which feeds in to the main library channel of money that we have got to spend. It’s spent pretty much on a handful of things.

“Staff is number one on the spending; you can’t run a service without staff. The majority of the rest of the money goes on buying information resources, whether it’s electronic resources, books, subscriptions or journals. All of that is the biggest part of what we do and inevitably it costs a lot especially with publishing’s rate of inflation being so high, almost 10% at times.”

Snowley went on to say how the upkeep of the building is maintained by Estates, and that it’s IT that finds the ICT systems across the campus, including the new computer installed in the library.

The University of Lincoln’s library is also undergoing some redevelopment work. Snowley said: “The first step in the library’s expansion process is what we’re calling ‘Library 1.5’, because it’s a part way step towards ‘Library 2’. The budget is set, the contractors have been employed and the work on that will start in January and it should be complete in May.

“It’s a pretty small extension, as it’s about 100 square metres in all. It’ll contain some fixed PC space, some space for laptops on a kind of bar, some more flexible group space and one more group room, because we know we need more group rooms.

He added: “We’re also starting to talk strategically about phase two of the library which is in effect a 100% increase in library space.”

Further details about the University of Lincoln GCW Library are available on the library website.

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