Less fines despite late book returns increase

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Bookworms in Argyll and Bute are returning more library books overdue – but are paying less in fines.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act have shown that 1,199 books were overdue in Argyll and Bute during 2016/17, the most recent year currently on record with the council.

This was more than double the total of 574 that were returned past their deadline in 2015/16 – but that year saw more paid in overdue fines.

While 2015/16 saw a total of £4,275 paid in fines, a total of £3,987 was charged in 2016/17 despite the number of overdue books doubling.

Libraries in Helensburgh and Lomond also saw a major jump in the number of overdue books in 2016/17. Helensburgh Library had 265 books returned late, Cardross Library 70 and Rosneath 50. These figures were compared to 133, 33 and nine in 2015/16.

In 2014/15, there were 572 overdue books in Argyll and Bute, with 137 in Helensburgh, 30 in Cardross and nine in Rosneath.

Again, the fined total was higher, with £5,154 paid by those who held on to their books for too long.

An Argyll and Bute Council spokesperson said: “We use a computer system to manage our library book stock.

“In 2017 we had a technical issue with the programme which meant long overdue items remained in the catalogue after they should have been withdrawn.

“This resulted in an inflated figure of overdue books for that year. We encourage people to return books on time to save themselves fines and to continue to make books available to other people.”

Robin Lloyd-Jones, an author and lecturer based in Helensburgh, insists that there is still a place in society for paper books.

He said: “I’m not sure what the overdue library books are an indication of. They used to say that if they were being stolen it gave the author some optimism as it meant people really loved them!

“I’m of a generation that was brought up with books. I love books because they are such satisfying things, beautiful objects.

“But in the end it’s the story that counts, rather than the media through which it is delivered.

“I certainly see libraries as being very important on all levels – local libraries and magnificent institutions like the Mitchell Library in Glasgow.

“School libraries are important as well. I’m sorry to see lots of schools losing their libraries as a great deal of learning takes place there.”