Fines issued at Harrogate Library are higher than any other in North Yorkshire.
According to a Freedom of Information request (FOI), the library has issued fines of almost £160,000 since 2011, including more than £4,000 in the first months of 2015.
It is a concern there is a gap between fines issued and fines collected because that is money that could go back into the library budget.NYCC general manager for libraries Chrys Mellor
This compares to the number of fines collected at Harrogate Library, also the highest in the county, of £106,700 since the 2010/11 financial year.
NYCC general manager for libraries Chrys Mellor said: “Harrogate is the busiest library we have, so it is a reasonable assumption that the busier the library the higher the level of fines.
“It is a concern there is a gap between fines issued and fines collected because that is money that could go back into the library budget, but without doing that further piece of research as to what the exact reason for the gap is I can’t say much more.”
Typical library fines for overdue books are 30p a day or part day, going up by 15p up to four days overdue, then 25p after that, while the fine stays at 15p a day for children.
If a book is overdue for a second week or part week the fine will be £2.50, progressing to a maximum of £7.50 after the fifth week or part week. A child’s fine over this period goes from 25p to £1.
In 2011 the total number of library fines issued amounted to £44,486. This dropped to £39,381 in 2012 and again to £34,707 in 2013, going up slightly last year to £36,398.
In the 2010/11 financial year the fines collected came to £15,953. The following year’s was £24,945, £24,602 in 2012/13, £22,570 in 2013/14, and £18,630 in 2014/15.
Mrs Mellor explained that the difference between fines issued and fines collected could be down to the processing system. For example, if a child has an overdue book but their date of birth is not on the system they will have an adult fine against their name.
Fines issued also includes waived fines, occurring when someone has a reason for not returning a book, like being rushed into hospital.
She said of the downward trend in fines issued and collected: “The decline in fines means we have to find other ways of generating income and we are working very hard at what we call ‘sweating the assets’, like room rates, retail sales, and other mechanisms for raising that income.
“Part of the reason fines have declined is because we send overdue alerts by email and people get them a lot quicker than by post. That does mean we have to find other sources of funding.”
The library with the second highest fines issued is Scarborough, which have this year amounted to £3,854.
In 2011, it issued fines of £29,060. In 2012 it was £22,193. This rose slightly to £22,776 in 2013, and again in 2014, to £31,186.