Library users urged to support Suffolk Libraries by paying their fines and returning overdue books

PUBLISHED: 14:00 03 January 2017

Ipswich Library

Ipswich Library

Book borrowers who have failed to return overdue titles or racked up fines are being urged to return books to libraries in Suffolk and pay their debt, as more than £200,000 of fines remains unpaid.

Suffolk Libraries chief executive Alison WheelerSuffolk Libraries chief executive Alison Wheeler

Figures released under Freedom of Information laws have revealed that since April 2013, £208,975 of fines remains unpaid.

In the seven months from April to November this year, £43,710 remains uncollected – almost equivalent to the £48,480 that remains unpaid for the whole of the 2015/16 year.

And Suffolk Libraries is asking people to pay their fines which helps support library services.

Alison Wheeler, chief executive of Suffolk Libraries, said: “The library fine system is not there to make money, it’s a way of encouraging the return of books and other items.

“Having said that we do use this money to support the cost of the library service so we would always encourage people to pay their fines as this is a way of helping us.

“Whilst we have systems in place to help remind people when their books are due back and warning them if they’re overdue, it is very difficult to enforce fines as we could spend a lot of time and money chasing people up for them, as they are mostly made up of smaller amounts spread across many customers.”

Library staff said that failing to return books or returning them late also had a negative impact on those who were looking to borrow them next – particularly with popular titles.

“This is an issue for all library services,” Ms Wheeler said. “There are of course many reasons why someone has not returned items, they may have moved away or sadly become ill or passed away and we might never know what’s happened to them.

“We would of course encourage anyone to bring back their overdue books or pay their fines as it does help the library service. We are happy to discuss concerns about high fines which someone may have accrued as all our customers are important to us and we wouldn’t want worries about fines to put someone off using the library service.”

Fines are 13p per day for overdue adult books, and 1p per day for children’s books. The maximum overdue charge on an adult book is £6.37, while the nominal charge for overdue children’s books is designed to promote responsibility among younger readers.

For DVDs and games, the daily charges go up to 66p. All of the figures include items which may only be a day or two overdue.

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council, which funds library services in the county, said: “Fines are designed to remind people their borrowed items are overdue, not as a means of making money.

“In common with other library authorities outstanding fines are only pursued when the cost of recovering the money is outweighed by the cost of doing so.

“Most people pay sooner rather than later because they wish to continue to use their library service.”

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