Yerington: Overdue fines strike a price blow to broke college students

This story though is about the University of Iowa’s policy on overdue books and a voice of warning for any who may be new to the university or the policies of the library.

The+Reference+Collection+at+the+Main+Library+on+Tuesday%2C+Dec.+12%2C+2017.+UISG+is+offering+a+new+service+for+students+to+donate+used+textbooks+to+the+library+for+semester+length+checkout.+%28Ben+Allan+Smith%2FThe+Daily+Iowan%29
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Yerington: Overdue fines strike a price blow to broke college students

The Reference Collection at the Main Library on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017. UISG is offering a new service for students to donate used textbooks to the library for semester length checkout. (Ben Allan Smith/The Daily Iowan)

The Reference Collection at the Main Library on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017. UISG is offering a new service for students to donate used textbooks to the library for semester length checkout. (Ben Allan Smith/The Daily Iowan)

The Daily Iowan; Photo by Ben Al

The Reference Collection at the Main Library on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017. UISG is offering a new service for students to donate used textbooks to the library for semester length checkout. (Ben Allan Smith/The Daily Iowan)

The Daily Iowan; Photo by Ben Al

The Daily Iowan; Photo by Ben Al

The Reference Collection at the Main Library on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017. UISG is offering a new service for students to donate used textbooks to the library for semester length checkout. (Ben Allan Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Austin J. Yerington, Opinion Columnist

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“Overdue books” is a term many dread and many deal with often. I often had issues with overdue library books as a child, but only ever had penalties consisting of “time-outs” or small, under a few dollars, fines.

This story, though, is about the University of Iowa’s policy on overdue books and a voice of warning for any who may be new to the university or the policies of the library.

Last fall, I started at the UI as an English and creative-writing major. I was impressed by the school’s library as soon as I saw it, but I was always intimidated by its size and vast catalogue of books. Finally, I worked some down time into my schedule to peruse the entrance and the books the library has up front. Quickly, I grabbed two novels off a shelf that I later found out were marked “reserve.” The two classic novels were long items I had wanted to read.

Not knowing the sign was there and not knowing the meaning of “reserve” in this context, I checked out the books. I received a confirmation email shortly after.

Less than a day later, I received a circulation-overdue email and was asked to return the two books I had just checked out. This was the first time I had ever checked something out from the Main Library, so I assumed that if I was a bit overdue, it would only be a minor fine.

I know you are thinking that I should have returned them right away, but when you are neck deep in student organizations, theater, and class work, an overdue book may slip your mind.

Let my $80 be a martyr for your wallet and learn from my ignorant mistake.”

I returned my two now-overdue books as soon as I had time and waited to face my fine. By this time, my books were 10 days overdue, and I expected a fine of $4 or so but soon discovered I was charged $40 for each book, totaling $80. Shocked and confused, I tried to explain to the librarians that these charges were never explained to me, but I was told there was I could do nothing about the fines.

To put large fine into perspective, the overdue policies for libraries such as the Iowa City Public Library is 25 cents a day with a $10 maximum limit on the fine for most books. The highest fines you can get from that library is a maximum of $5 per day and a maximum of $10 and a possible suspension of your renting abilities. This is what most may think our policy would be on all our books except for Special Collection texts.

I later saw there were two small, easy to miss, graphics on the inner wall and far right of the shelf that explained this policy and how fast it is to rack up fees.

An $80 fine is a horribly hard way to teach a student a lesson, but it definitely taught me. This feeling of being truly hit by a librarian’s right hook and your own negligence is a hard pill to swallow.

My point of writing this op-ed is to turn my trivial griping into a word of warning for others who may not know what they are getting into and to definitely look for a sign near the book rack when they want to take out books. So definitely be sure to ask the librarians about the policy/process when it comes to taking out books, or at the very least look into it on the university’s website.

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