Library fines? Not fine by me


I was having a great Easter break back home: hanging out with friends I hadn’t seen for months; waking up at 10 or later; all thoughts of nine o’clock lectures and reading lists briefly gone from my mind… Then I received an e-mail from the Library.

Apparently, one of the books I had taken out just before breaking up for Easter (in the hope that I might just get my act together study-wise in the last couple of weeks of holiday) had been requested. I had five days to get it back, or else I faced a £10 fine. The book in question was one that looked into anger management treatment. The hassle and cost of sending this book from my home in Cornwall to the University made me consider making practical use of it…

To make matters worse, it also transpired that with lightness of luggage in mind, I had left said book back at uni! I enlisted one of my flatmates to unlock my room and retrieve the book, but to no avail – the porters said I had to be present. Bearing in mind that the cost of a return train ticket from Cornwall to Lancaster is around £100, there was no chance of this happening!

Feeling increasingly frustrated, and very aware of how hard I was being made to work to avoid a £10 fine, I sent back a rather sarky response to the original e-mail, outlining how, as I had left the library book 350 miles away, there was no getting it back in time.

The response I received was one of the exasperatingly official e-mails you often get from those just following protocol. “All books are issued subject to recall, including over the Easter vacation,” it read, with a link to the library rules which stated that “anybody taking out books to read over the holidays must be able to post them back, or make sure that somebody else could return them.”

I’m sorry, would you like onions with that tripe? I understand I may be coming across increasingly as a ranting penny-pincher, outraged at the thought of paying a measly £10 fine for a book I didn’t even bother to bring back home! And okay, I’ll admit I’m a cheapskate. I’ll admit I’m rather stupid in taking out a book and not bringing it home. But I do believe the fact that you can be fined for having a book over the holidays is unjust. Let’s for the moment apply some logic to the situation…

The majority of students will go back home during holidays, but you have stayed. Okay, that’s fine. You can concentrate on studies, and you have free rein of the library. However, if you need a particular book, so badly that it must be with you before the end of the holidays, surely you should have requested it before everyone has broken up? I mean, what about the international students, who make up about 50% of the student community? You expect them to send a book half-way around the world because you couldn’t be bothered to request a book a couple of weeks earlier? It’s like demanding a flatmate bake you a birthday cake within the hour, having not previously informed them of your birthday.

Just to add some more confusion to this already bewildering cocktail, the lovely library lady also informed me that this baffling request system applies for the Easter break, but not the Christmas one.

Sorry, what? I fail to see the consistency in this perverse library logic. “The government have announced new plans to fine people up to £1000 for spitting,” “What? That’s obscene!” “Yes, but they’re only enforcing it on the first Sunday of each month.”

I mean, come on.

Anyhow, the matter was eventually resolved when my mother, an ex-librarian herself, phoned up the library and used her librarian sorcery (and presumably several explanations for my inadequacies) to get the due date on the book moved back a couple of weeks, to coincide with us visiting relatives.

Yet not everyone will have a librarian for a mother, and therefore I fear many will fall victim to this cruel and inane system of penalising those who wish to read over the holidays.

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