Overdue library items can have unexpected consequences

Nick Boone

The University Library makes a substantial amount of money from the community’s fees on overdue items but sometimes fines can be so extreme that they end up going to the Bursar’s Office.

Fines totaled about $123,000 since fiscal year 2013, Ron Bammerlin, senior fiscal manager for the University Libraries, said.

“Roughly after three months or so, we send them (the fines) over to the Bursar, after $25.01 or greater — that’s the threshold,” Bammerlin said.

Once the Bursar’s Office receives the fine, it then becomes a University Fine and falls under their guidelines, Bammerlin said.

Kristin Olafsdottir, faculty in the University Bursar, said in an email that the Bursar’s Office can only assess the fees listed in the University Fee Register. The register is the official list of the university fees that are approved by the Board of Trustees and collected by the Bursar’s Office, according to the Kent State University website.

“After 18 months, the Bursar is legally required in the state of Ohio to turn it over to the Attorney General’s office,” Bammerlin said.

If fines aren’t paid, certain problems may arise for students.

If a student has an outstanding balance, it is possible when it is time to graduate, that the Bursar’s office will hold transcripts and diploma, Adam Steele, an assistant professor of University Libraries and one of the managers at the Circulation Desk, said.

“That’s the big one for a lot students trying to get into grad school, and they have fines at the library, they can’t get their transcripts sent anywhere,” Steele said.

Bammerlin said the library wants the materials back, so if someone were to lose a book, they can replace it with an identical copy — but it as to be an equal trade.  For example, a hardcover copy for a hardcover copy.

Dean of the University Libraries James Bracken said the library can only prevent people from checking out more materials because of their fines.

“The best thing to do is renew your books, we send out 14 notices that say; ‘renew or return your books,’” Bracken said. “And (library users) don’t abide by them.”

Bracken said they are fairly lenient with the Kent State materials, but they are part of the OhioLink system and have to fine the patrons for that material.  All of the members within OhioLink fine their patrons for not returning their material, so the Kent State library follows suit by assessing fines for their users.

The library, however, wants to get out of the fine business because it costs money to levy fines, Bracken said. The university has to pay its employees to levy and process the fines, and in turn, don’t make money.

Bammerlin said from 2012 to 2013 the number of fines have gone down about 45 percent.  

He also said since 2013 that they have eliminated the daily fines, and now they have replacement fees that vary from item to item.  

The money the library collects from the fines goes into a general fund and can be used in different ways. For instance, the money can be used to replace the missing items or fix the broken ones or can be used for technology projects, printers, computers, copiers, Bammerlin said.  

Bammerlin also said the money goes into a general fund that could be used for different events in the library or will be used wherever needed.  

“We take it seriously, it is state money, it is state property, so we have to be responsible stewards for it,” Bracken said when describing the fine situation in the library. “But it cost to be a responsible steward.”

Contact Nick Boone at [email protected].