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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

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Cumbria libraries set to bring non-payers to book

UNPAID fines are costing libraries in Cumbria a staggering £90,000, with Barrow and Ulverston among the worst affected in the county.

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FINES MOUNTING UP Barrow Library, which has the highest amount of outstanding fines in South Cumbria, at nearly £8,000

Barrow has the highest figure in South Cumbria with £7,851.65 owed in fines from overdue books, followed by Ulverston with £2,712, and Grange with £1,164.55.

Users are charged 20p per day for every item overdue, but this is capped at a maximum £7 per item.

The figures, revealed via Freedom of Information laws, show that roughly 1,120 items are missing at Barrow Library in Ramsden Square at least, if the maximum fine is applied in all cases.

Bruce Bennison, who is in charge of the county’s library service, said: “The big figures are the big libraries, and it’s reflecting the amount of usage of those libraries.

“To put it into context, we have something approaching two million items in Cumbria Library Service, so inevitably when you have got items on shelves some of that material will go and never be seen again.

“We are lending lots of items out every day and inevitably there is loss or non-return.”

Mr Bennison said the majority of people pay off fines in the county, with 90 per cent of all users doing so.

He added: “If you owe more we will block your card so you can’t take any more out: there then becomes a stand-off.

“For example, if you take a DVD out and don’t return it and keep doing that and clock up a £20 bill, then you can’t have any more activity until you clear the debt.”

Cumbria County Council sometimes hold amnesties for old items, with a 25-year-old book amongst the oldest items ever handed in at Penrith Library.

However, Mr Bennison insists the return of these books years later is usually of very little value.

He said: “Every now and then we do get an old book and usually it is in the post.

“As a book it’s probably pretty dated and really out-of-date.

“We have a fairly high turnover of books that become out of date, either because of subject or because they are so heavily used they are falling apart.

“We find it interesting that people feel the need to keep taking the same book out for a continuous length of time, because it only takes so long to read a book.”

The most overdue fines in Cumbria are at Carlisle, with users owing a total of £29,549.72 there.

Elsewhere, in South Cumbria, users owe £1,006.50 at Ambleside, £719.65 at Broughton, £657.45 at Dalton, £824.30 at Millom, £1,129.71 at Roose, and £332.80 at Walney.

In Cumbria, all items borrowed have a maximum limit of six renewals.

After the sixth renewal, the item must be brought into the library for staff to check the condition before it can be renewed again.

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