By Rebecca Burton
Associate News Editor
Students frequenting Ryerson’s library have already racked up a $60, 020 bill in owed library fines for the 2010-2011 fiscal year. Even though overdue fees could mean withheld grades and prohibited enrollment, students have paid over $120, 000 in fees to the library for the last several years.
A library fee doesn’t total much, with book fines set at $0.50 a day up to a maximum of $20 and DVD/VHS at $3 per day to a maximum of $100. Where students are slapped with the greatest fees is in reserve items that can cost up to $2 an hour.
When the overdue item reaches the 30 day mark, students are subject to pay the automatic system generated fee of $100.
According to head circulation supervisor Mandissa Arlain, the $100 fee has been in place for awhile. The reason is to balance out the costs of replacement as books vary significantly in price.
Third-year public health and safety student Rima Rowsell said she was hit with the $100 fine for failing to return an environmental economics book due last semester on Dec. 16. Rowsell said she returned the book immediately following her final exam on Dec. 15. The following day she received a message it was overdue.
Rowsell followed up by contacting the library informing them that the item had been returned. Her only option was to wait four weeks for the library staff to perform routine checks to see if the item would turn up. “Our staff check up to four times. Every week they go to any possible place it could be held, such as the row or section the item is normally held, to see if the item shows up,” Arlain said.
Rowsell said if there had been security cameras pointing to the return slots she could have proven that she had been at the library that day.
According to Arlain, while there are security cameras in the library there are no specific ones angled at the circulation desk or return slots.
“What motivation would I have to take the book?” Rowsell said.
In 2010, the total library fines paid reached a total of $129, 000 and in 2009, it amounted to $124, 000.
These fees do not include the option that many students choose to replace lost books themselves, even through discount or used book stores.
“In most cases this is what students do,” Arlain said.
Rowsell opted for this choice, but initially purchased the wrong edition. Therefore her total fees resulted in $78.44, with two separate editions waiting to be delivered to her.
The fines accumulated don’t go straight back into the library but instead are sent back to the general revenue of the university through Financial Services, said Madeleine Lefebvre, senior librarian. The library then receives funding from this central budget. The majority of fees go towards staffing at about 58 per cent and acquisitions that take 38 per cent, she said.
Rowsell said her frustration was not with the fees alone but rather the limited options she had to either pay or not move into her next semester.
“Even a $10 fine can have your grades withheld. That’s a lot of power for the library to have,” Rowsell said.