NI universities receive £400,000 in library fines

Library books Image copyright ilbusca

Northern Ireland's universities generated more than £400,000 in student library fines over the last five years, the BBC has learned.

Figures show that Ulster University and Queen's University in Belfast amassed a total of £423,000 since 2013.

Queens has two libraries at its Belfast campus, while Ulster has four across its Magee, Belfast, Coleraine and Jordanstown campuses.

Student bodies have called for a reform of the current library fines system.

Library fines at both institutions start at 10p per day for standard loans but can rise to £2.50 for a two-day loan.

Between 2013 and 2018, Queen's made £273,000 while Ulster University generated £155,000 in library fines, according to the data obtained by BBC Radio Foyle.

Over the five- year period, Queen's issued 240,408 fines while at Ulster University 100,119 library fines were issued to students.

"The library imposes fines only because late return of books may impact negatively on the work of other students who are working to deadlines." a Queen's University spokeswoman said.

She added: "Funds accrued from library fines are used to purchase stock and develop the library service."

Queen's said £200,000 has been invested in an e-book system for students.

The president of Queen's Student Union, Connor Veighey, said using fines to fund e-books did not seem fair.

"The bigger debate here is why are these new initiatives, fantastic as they may be, why are they being funded by library fines? Surely we should be looking to the university to put this money in anyway."

He called for a review of the current system.

Ulster University said the money raised in fines is "ring fenced and used solely for the benefits of students".

The university said the student hardship fund received £35,000 from fines over the last five years while £44,000 has been spent on e-books and replacement books.

A further £27,000 was spent on equipment and furniture for the university, it said.

Andrew McAnallen, Ulster University's Student President said there had been more than two million requests for e-books at the university last year.

"If we can continue to go in that more green and sustainable direction, it is inevitably going to negate the need for library costs," he said.

Both Queen's and Ulster University say they have no plans to scrap the current library fines system.

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