$50k of Library Fines Charged in 2021, but Very Little Paid

$50k of Library Fines Charged in 2021, but Very Little Paid

That’s a FINE-looking pile of cash you’ve got there

Otago Uni charged almost $50,000 in library fines over 2021. Despite this, only a tiny fraction of this amount was actually paid. 

According to a publicly available Official Information Act request on FYI.org.nz, the Uni issued $49,941.42 worth of fines for late, overdue and damaged books in 2021. These numbers were pretty similar to 2020 ($52,794.19) but represented quite a steep drop-off from 2019, when a whopping $66k worth of library fines were issued. Guess people stopped reading during Covid, or something.

Out of the $50k in library fines, less than half of it was for overdue books (adding up to $23,388.75). Because the Uni hasn’t been charging overdue fees for most items since 2015, these fines are racked up from items which are “recalled” by someone else wanting to borrow them ($3/day), 3-day loan items ($1/day), and “high-demand items/course reserve books” (a whopping $0.10/minute). 

All these numbers mean nothing, though, if they’re not translated into cold hard cash, and it seems that the Uni’s libraries are sitting on a big pile of IOUs. Asset-rich, but cash-poor. Around 80% of the library fines charged by the Uni ended up being waived – adding up to $39,985.12 that, presumably, stayed in students’ pockets long enough for them to walk across the road from Central to Leith Liquor. According to a statement from Kelsey Kennard, the Uni’s Official Information and Compliance Coordinator, this is partly because when lost books are returned, “there is an automatic waive of the lost replacement fees”. With the Uni charging a cool $125 for every lost book, these numbers add up quickly. 

Even among the overdue books’ fines, which in theory cannot be waived, it seems that only a small fraction of the overdue fines charged were actually paid. According to the OIA request, only around $5,160.50 of overdue books’ fines were paid in 2021 – around 20% of the total. To the few goody two-shoes who probably gave up a box or a Huzur kebab to square their debts with Big Library, we salute you.

This article first appeared in Issue 25, 2022.
Posted 2:39pm Sunday 2nd October 2022 by Denzel Chung.