For most students, the University libraries are a vital resource, and it can often seem that we are not getting much else for our £9,000. When using the library we have probably all been frustrated at some point by two things: people not returning books on time and being fined for not returning books on time. To some extent this is always going to happen, although the University could take a simple measure to combat the problem: text message reminders.
University libraries already send a cursory email to remind students of upcoming return dates and overdue warnings, but more could be done. After a Freedom of Information request by the Guardian it was revealed that for the academic year 2011-2012 UK based University of Nottingham students were charged a phenomenal £171,687 in library fines. However, removing or reducing fines could result in much needed books being unavailable even more than they already are.
After a Freedom of Information request by the Guardian it was revealed that for the academic year 2011-2012 UK based University of Nottingham students were charged a phenomenal £171,687 in library fines
With short loan books students can be hit especially hard by overdue fines of 80p per hour. It can be a painful experience to receive an email regarding the two short loan books that have been hidden beneath a pile of articles, folders and empty mugs in your bedroom for the past two days. With such heavy fines it appears unlikely that students are deliberately not returning books; many of us simply forget. It appears that email reminders alone are insufficient, especially considering that for short loan books the maximum fine of £10 will have been reached before overdue reminder emails are even sent.
A study by a University of Leeds librarian found that 64% of library users believed text message reminders would be ‘highly effective’ in encouraging book returns on time
It is surprising that text reminders have not been introduced already. We now receive text reminders for everything from doctor’s appointments to Amazon deliveries and everything in between. Many public libraries in the UK already have text reminders, as do numerous universities in the United States.
A study by a University of Leeds librarian found that 64% of library users believed text message reminders would be ‘highly effective’ in encouraging book returns on time. After all, we all check our phones far more than we check our emails; even with smart phones an email is much less likely to be read considering the amount of junk mail we receive.
Why has it not been done already?
In terms of implementing this there are commercial services that the university could pay to use, although it seems unlikely that a Russell Group university with a strong School of Computer Science would struggle to create its own software. Any costs that the library would incur should be considered against the benefit this would have of freeing up finite library resources. If more books are returned on time, fewer books are needed.
Introducing text reminders would help students to avoid hefty fines and by reducing the number of late returns it would reduce the strain on library resources. The only question is: why has it not been done already?
Image courtesy of Moyan Brenn via Flickr