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Thursday, October 22, 2020

Campus

Library late fees bring little to overall budget


Late fees account for less than one percent of the $18.4 million annual budget of the library system.  |  Daniel Renfrow/The Daily Cougar

Late fees account for less than one percent of the $18.4 million annual budget of the library system. | Daniel Renfrow/The Daily Cougar

Considering UH holds a large population of commuters, it would seem the possibility of late returns on library items — and subsequent late fees — would be great.

However, the library system has only accrued $1,484 in late fees since the beginning of its 2011-2012 fiscal year and $5,563 for 2010-2011. Both figures seem small in comparison to the library system’s approximate $18.4 million budget, said Lee Hilyer, head of Information and Access Services.

“The amount we collect in fines is less than one percent of our overall budget,” said Hilyer. “It’s not a revenue stream for us. It’s really just a deterrent to bad behavior.”

What is mainly responsible for this small income of late fees is the library system’s policy on overdue items. Some students do not have to incur the replacement and $25 processing fee if they eventually return the materials.

“It’s a different situation and a different issue with each student, and it depends on how high the fine is,” said weekend service desk manager Fransisca Sanchez. “If I get a legitimate answer and I know they are sincere, I go ahead and wave the fine for that student.”

Reserved materials, including textbooks, electronic equipment and other specific course materials are the only library services that seem to pose a risk of strict punishment. Reserved materials have a fine of $3 for every hour past the allotted time; for electronic equipment, the fine is $9 each day late. For the library staff in these areas, overdue items do not seem to be a frequent issue.

“We rarely have a problem with people turning in the electronic equipment late,” said Learning Commons Technician Fernando Zamora. “They get the items for three days, which is usually enough time for them to finish whatever they are using it for.”

Although the fine amounts have increased over the years, the loan period was extended from three weeks to six weeks for undergraduate students. The main focus is on student accessibility rather than financial gain on the library’s part.

“Loan periods are arbitrary. The undergrad today is different from the one of five years ago or 10 years ago. Their needs are different,” Hilyer said. “We are about getting materials into people’s hands. If they need the material for six weeks and nobody else wants it, why not keep it for six weeks?”

For some students, the ease with which they can access materials at the library, as well as the lenient late policy, was surprising. Journalism student Blythe Nguyen began utilizing library resources this semester and was impressed with the process.

“It’s been incredibly easy to find what I need. I’ve been going back and continuing to get the books I need for class as well as books I would just like to read,” Nguyen said.

“I think I have about 14 books out right now, and I just renewed almost all of them online. It relieves a lot of stress knowing that there’s one less administrative deadline to worry about.”

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