Students could escape library fines as Norwich universities consider scrapping overdue charges

The University of East Anglia. Photo: UEA

The University of East Anglia. Photo: UEA - Credit: Archant

Students in Norwich could escape library fines after the city's universities softened their stances - with one considering ditching the penalties altogether.

Both Norwich University of the Arts (NUA) and the University of East Anglia (UEA) have charged students for late library returns in the past, with thousands of fines issued over the years.

According to their websites, UEA charges a 20p a day fee for standard loans, while NUA charges 10p for three-week loans and 30p for short loan items.

At UEA, just over 202,000 fines were issued between 2014/15 and 2016/17, with a sum of between £40,000 and £50,000 made each year in that period.

But up to May in the 2017/18 school year, that number dropped to £24,305.

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Nicholas Lewis, library director, said the university had launched a system of unlimited renewals last September, which saw students only asked to return books if someone else needs them.

'We encourage people to manage their library accounts by sending email reminders when books are due to prevent them accruing fines,' he said.

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'We also ask that people contact us, especially if they have been unable to return or renew their books because of extenuating circumstances, so we can take this into account, and either remove or reduce the fines owed.

'We find that these measures are appreciated by our users whilst also ensuring our books are returned on time for other people to borrow.'

The longest outstanding book return is currently 34 days, for Dyslexia: A Complete Guide for Parents.

At NUA, staff said they had been trialling a system without fines since April.

'Since then, no fines have been levied on borrowed materials that have been returned late,' a spokesman said. 'We work hard to ensure that all students are able to access the library materials they need throughout their course. The small fines levied in the past were simply intended to encourage students to return resources promptly so they could be available to other library users.'

They said they were now considering whether removing fines entirely was a better way of encouraging students to use the library.

In 2015/16, the university made £1,971 from library fines, rising to £2,224 in 2016/17 and £2,370 in 2017/18 to date.

The longest outstanding return is a book on marketing fashion, which is 891 days overdue.

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