Sheffield University scraps fines for overdue library books

Students at Sheffield University will no longer be fined if their library books are overdue, after a new policy was introduced this term.

Instead students will be able to keep books on an open-ended basis until they are requested by someone else.

They will be unable to take out any further books until the one requested is returned.

Sheffield is one of the first universities in the country to make such a move.

Fines are a contentious issue as if they go unpaid, students can be prevented from graduating - a practice that was criticised by the Office of Fair Trading.

It said universities preventing students with non-academic debts from graduating could be breaching consumer law.

There was also evidence some students were willing to pay fines to keep the books they wanted - up to £2 per day per book.

University spokeswoman Alison Little said: “We know our students hate receiving fines, and we’re not keen on giving them either.

“We hope that our new system will also help to efficiently manage the lending of core text books which are in high demand.

“The system is based on the trust that students will bring the books back when someone else requires them and it has already generated positive feedback from students.”

Yael Shafritz, president of the University of Sheffield’s Students’ Union, said: “Scrapping library fines will create a culture based on trust, as opposed to financial circumstance - we think this is a really positive move.”

Libraries are a key part of university open days, with facilities shown to prospective students and their parents.

Not only are university libraries now expected to be hubs of technology, they are under increasing pressure to be always available.

Many university libraries, particularly in the exam season, are open 24 hours a day. It is not unusual to see them crowded in the early hours of the morning.