Over the past year, many students have received high late fees for items they borrowed from the Hans W. Klohn Commons.
With some as high as $200, it has become a cause for concern among students borrowing the library’s materials.
For ordinary items, such as books, articles, and DVDs, the late fee is $1 per day, adding up to a maximum of $28. However, the late fee for electronics, such as cameras, laptops, and digital projectors, is $1 per hour, adding up to a maximum of $200.
It is the rate for returning electronics late that has caused the largest amount of problems among students, particularly due to how the policy works.
Nick Karimi, a student at UNBSJ, had a major problem with this flawed policy last semester.
“I remember that I couldn’t return a camera, because it was a holiday,” he says.
Even though he did not have the option to return the camera during that time, he was still penalized for it, resulting in an overall charge of $107 in late fees.
This fee doesn’t stop adding up when the library isn’t open. Students are still charged $1 per hour, even during the hours when they don’t have the option to return their item.
“They told me I wouldn’t be able to rent anymore, until I paid the fine,” further explains Karimi.
Once a student has over $25 in fees, they cannot rent another item until the fee has been paid according to library policy.
Fees were changed in the summer of 2015 and if students were not made aware of the new rates, they found themselves in for quite a shock upon returning their late items.
David Ross, a librarian at the Commons, explained why these changes were made.
“There were a couple of reasons why we had to change [the late fees]. We found that items weren’t coming back on time, and it meant that other people weren’t getting access to those shared resources that we want them to have.”
“The Fredericton library has had these exact late fees for a number of years. It just made sense to make our fees the same as Fredericton’s, because it had caused confusion for students in the past. If a Saint John student signed out an item from Fredericton, Fredericton’s late fees applied to them [instead of UNB Saint John’s].”
In response to student concerns over being charged over hours in which the library is closed, Ross wants to make it clear that students have the option to appeal late charges that they feel are unfair.
“[Students] can ask the staff at the library services desk, and often they will just resolve the matter right there if the fine should not have been applied, or was a mistake the library made. Often the questions will be referred to me, and I will take them to our director.”
Of course, not all appeals will be granted. Christian Acosta, a student who works at the Commons, states that “the more fees you have, the less likely you are to be appealed.”
Ross says those fees go “toward projects that will benefit students. We use the money to purchase equipment such as various cables and phone chargers that they can borrow – which have been popular – and new books. We’re really careful with that money. We want it to always have a positive impact on students.”
Ross concludes by saying, “We [at the Commons] really hate charging late fees. It’s not a way to try and make money. We really don’t want to charge [students] these fees, but we need materials returned on time so other students can use them.”
Other late fees include the rate of $5 per day for recalled items, which are items that have been requested by a professor for their class, and $5 per hour for course-reserve materials, which are only loaned out for a maximum of two hours, due to being in high demand with other students. The maximum charge for these fines is $100 – quite a bit lower than the $200 cap for electronics.