Fines are fine

Library fines aren’t the most serious financial barrier university students have to face.

The University of Sheffield in England has decided to stop levying fines for overdue library books. Instead, they’ll implement an automatic renewal system, where students are allowed to keep a book until someone else requests it. If a book isn’t returned at that point, students are prevented from signing out any more materials.

Many universities — including Queen’s — prevent students from registering for courses, requesting transcripts or even from graduating if they have any outstanding library fines.

While it seems ridiculous for universities to bar students from graduating because of an overdue book, students need to be responsible adults and return their books in a timely fashion, as they are university property.

Sheffield’s new system will improve access to academic materials, and their automatic renewal system is something Queen’s libraries should consider adopting. Fines, however, should remain in place as a punitive measure, as they’re the best incentive for returning a book.

Fines may pose a minuscule financial issue for students, but they aren’t nearly as critical an issue as the financial barrier students regularly face due to inflated, outlandish textbook prices.

Universities in general need to improve the accessibility that students have to academic material, and libraries play a critical role in that.

At this time, the most plausible solution to the accessibility issue would be a transition to offering more material online, which wouldn’t hinder students based on return dates or fines.

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