Friday, March 19, 2010

Why Library Fine Caps Are a BAD Idea

Reuters announced some seemingly mundane news from the Dinnington public library in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, today.

One of the library's patrons returned a library book last month. *gasp*

The kicker was 45 years late. And a first edition.

Staff at the Dinnington library are used to people bringing books back late but the package they received last month was in a class of its own.

It contained a paperback first edition copy of Quatermass and the Pit by Nigel Kneale which had been borrowed on September 24, 1965.

"I thought at first it was just a normal return, until I saw the color of the pages: they were very brown around the edges," said Alison Lawrie, the Principal Library Assistant.

"It's true that some people like to take their time with a good book, but 45 years is an incredible amount of time!"

Staff believe the book was borrowed from the old Dinnington Library, in Sheffield, South Yorkshire which opened in 1936 and is close to the current building which opened in 2000. However, the identity of the borrower remains a mystery because records do not go back that far -- and there would have been no danger of a huge accumulated fine because all fines are capped at 6 pounds ($9).

"The person who posted it back to us would not be in any 'trouble' whatsoever," said Lawrie. "If the person who returned the book wants to come forward, we'd love to know the story behind it."

Though it's obviously not a book of great monetary value, like a first edition of Cather in the Rye might be for example, it's an interesting tidbit from our friends across the pond.

It's also a nice little tale as to why libraries shouldn't cap their fines! According to, at the present late-fee rate of 15 pence per day, the mysterious borrower would owe the library £2,500--equivalent to $3 753.25 in the U.S.

Thanks to my mom (yes, that's right) for putting this one on my radar!

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