Libraries receive thousands of pounds in fines

LIBRARIES collected more than £35,000 in fines across the Observer area last year, a freedom of information request has revealed.

Chichester Library collected £19,734.60 in library fines in the 2012/13 financial year, which dropped only slightly to £19,606.11 last year.

This was nearly double the fines paid at Bognor Regis Library, which collected £9,702.00 last year and £10,749.59 the year before.

Last year, the amount collected in total from Chichester, Bognor Regis, Midhurst, Petworth, Selsey and the Witterings libraries amounted to £35,637.50.

A spokeswoman for West Sussex County Council said: “Charges for late return of library loans are designed to encourage everyone to bring back the books and other items when finished. A good turnover of stock helps to increase choice on the shelves.”

There is no possibility of people accruing fines that keep on growing exponentially, as was explained by a spokeswoman from the library service.

“We do not monitor individual fines,” she said.

“All borrowers may accrue a small amount in fines, while still having use of their library card and borrowing privileges, but once the amount owed goes over a specified limit, use of the card is prohibited.

“Also, when an individual item is kept overdue, we apply a maximum fine of £10. It is not possible for the individual fine to go beyond this level.”

Four out of the six libraries for which figures were obtained saw the amount collected in fines drop between 2012/13 and 2013/2014.

As well as Chichester and Bognor Regis, Midhurst and the Witterings libraries also decreased.

Midhurst went down from £2,563.21 in 2012/13 to £2,388.37 in 2013/14. The Witterings went down from £1,343.92 to £1,266.70.

One possible cause for this was a drop in the number of people borrowing books in West Sussex over those two years.

In 2012/13, there were 3,067,629 loans across the whole of the county, which dropped to 2,866,732 last year.

However, Petworth and Selsey libraries bucked the trend – as they saw an increase in the amounts paid in overdue library fines.

Selsey Library rose slightly from £1,671.84 to £1,955.02 over the two years. Petworth went up from £701.57 to £719.30.

West Sussex County Council charges 20p per day that an adult book is overdue. For children’s books there is no daily charge.

There can also be a £1 administrative charge for a reminder letter.

The most expensive item to have overdue is a blu-ray DVD, which is 70p per day. Normal DVDs vary between 60p and 70p per day.

Later this summer, libraries will start sending out email reminders to borrowers three days before the due date, reminding them to return or renew loans.

The council said it hoped this would make it easier to return loans on time.