EXCLUSIVE: Sheffield Hallam University students fined nearly 13, 000 for missing library books
Sheffield Hallam University students were fined nearly 13, 000 times for books that have gone missing from the library in under three years, The Star can reveal.
Figures revealed using the Freedom of Information Act showed 12, 912 fines were imposed for books being returned late, lost or stolen between August 2015 and April 2018.
This totalled Â£305, 578 in fines but the university has only managed to collect Â£44, 645 meaning more than Â£250, 000 is outstanding.
As of May this year there are 1732 students who still owe library fines - about five per cent of the whole university cohort.
The university said there are no plans to change its policy on borrowing books despite the number of outstanding fines.
A spokesperson said: “Our approach to fines has changed significantly with the introduction of our new library management system several years ago.
“Books are automatically renewed unless another user wishes to borrow them. In this case, the user is alerted and has five days in which to return the item and if they do so within that time, no fine will be charged.
“This system means students can keep items for as long as they need them, provided they are not required by anyone else."
They added this has been approved by the students' union and is "in the interests of fairness for all students."
Students are fined if they fail to return an item that has been requested by someone else within five days, if they still have items out on loan when their library account expires or if they reach the maximum number of 52 weeks' worth of auto-renewals.
Fines are charged at Â£2 per day on the overdue items and the maximum fine per item is Â£20.
Students who owe Â£30 or more in fines are unable to borrow or request any more items.
The money collected is put back into a general library fund.
In 2014, the neighbouring University of Sheffield scrapped fines for overdue library books in a pioneering move to 'make the loan system fairer and more efficient for students.'
This came after the National Union of Students said it was “incredibly unfair” to prevent students from graduating because of unpaid library fines at some universities. No students are prevented from graduating at Hallam for this reason.
Books at that site are now automatically renewed until someone else requests them – then students are given two days to return the book.
If students fail to bring their books back when requested they will not be fined, but won’t be able to take out any more books in the meantime.
Alison Little, associate director of learning strategy and student engagement, said students have been "very positive" about the move since its introduction.
Nationally, 130 universities and university colleges collected more than Â£3.5m in library fines between September 2016 to August 2017.