photo by: Lauren Fox
A University of Kansas doctoral student has to pay hundreds of dollars after returning about 40 books to KU libraries at the start of this semester.
Jenny Nielsen, a doctoral candidate who studies the philosophy of science, said she returned all but one of the books in the condition she received them and felt she was accused for decades of damage.
Nielsen has been attending KU since 2011 and said she has never had an issue like this with KU Libraries. Years ago she got late fees. But that’s the only time she’s received a library fee that she thinks is unfair – and it’s $ 620.
Nielsen said the fees put her re-enrollment in jeopardy and if she was able to afford the fee, she was worried about using the library’s system again.
“I’m going to be very afraid to consult books,” she said. “It’s a major headache.”
As for the KU libraries, it is said that the matter is closed. Nielsen appealed the charges in mid-March and learned on Monday that his appeal had not been successful.
“The Library Appeal Board – an independent group of faculty, student and staff representatives not associated with KU Libraries – has issued its decision, which is the final decision on this matter by the University,” Christy McWard , executive director of the Office of Communications and Advancement for KU Libraries, said in an email to Journal-World.
McWard said it was “extremely unusual” for a student to be fined significantly for damaged books. Disputes between customers over damaged items are rare, she said, and the last time the library’s appeal board was called upon to deal with a contentious charge was in the spring of 2017.
“Charging a client for damage to books is always a last resort and only done after our conservation experts rule out natural wear and tear,” McWard wrote. “In the rare event of a generally large fine, KU library staff worked with the client to lower the default fees to help lessen the financial impact on them.”
KU Libraries charged Nielsen for the 43 books she returned. Each book came with a fee. Of the 43 books, 35 had a $ 10 “lost item handling fee”, four had a $ 20 “lost item handling fee” and four others each had a “lost item replacement” fee ranging from $ 22. at $ 105.
Nielsen hasn’t lost any books or turned any late books, she said. When asked about the fees, Nielsen said the library sent her photos of some of the books she returned that had marks on the cover, dirt on the spine and worn edges. or stained, which apparently implied that the fees were being charged because of the condition of the books, not because they were lost. But Nielsen said that was the condition the books were in when she received them from the library.
photo by: Photos contributed
McWard, however, said all books that are returned to the library are inspected by multiple staff before being put back on the shelves.
“Staff at KU Libraries are trained to examine the condition of a book, identify damaged items and route them to the Curatorial Services Department, where the extent of any damage can be fully assessed,” McWard wrote in an email to Journal-World.
Nielsen said she believed the marks on at least one of the books she returned could have been removed by simply cleaning the cover, but Nielsen said the library specifically said not to clean the books it returned. ‘she had consulted.
“To avoid damaging library materials, we ask that you do not attempt to clean the books yourself. You may want to let them sit for 96 hours before handling them according to NEDCC guidelines, ”an email from KU Libraries said Feb. 19.
There is a book that was worn out by Nielsen, she said, and she is willing to pay for that book. But Nielsen appealed fees on all other books.
His official call to the library did not change the outcome of his decision. Nielsen said KU Libraries had said that “handling lost items” and “replacing lost items” were not the correct labels for her charges, but Nielsen said KU Libraries had not provided her with a additional documentation justifying the costs for each book with the corrected language. Nielsen is also skeptical that those involved in the appeal board actually saw the books in person. The appeal process took place on Zoom, she said. In addition, some of the books she returned that she had been charged for have already been removed from the library by other readers, she said.
McWard did not respond to questions from Journal-World on whether KU Libraries justified the charges to Nielsen with corrected language, whether the Appeal Board viewed the books in person, or why some of the books were rehabilitated if they were in poor condition.
When asked if the fees were the result of financial hardship at KU libraries, McWard said KU Libraries do not assess fines and fees based on the financial health of libraries.
“In fact, fines and fees collected by libraries represent a very small portion of our annual operating budget – less than a tenth of one percent in FY20,” she wrote. “Fines and fees are not the norm. Most of the costs incurred are quite modest and are resolved quickly. “
Lawrence Public Library switched to a non-fine model in 2020. McWard said that while there may be a crawl of a non-fine model in KU Libraries in the future, the management team did not. not discussed this possibility at length.
“Non-fine models often do not include situations where materials are damaged beyond repair,” said McWard. “One of the main reasons fine policies are established is to maintain a collection for the use of all clients and not to allow the actions of a singer user to prevent that access.”
As for Nielsen, she said she was concerned and confused by the whole situation – “I have returned books in this state (for years),” she said.
Nielsen can no longer view the books at KU Libraries until her fees are paid, and she is concerned that she may be able to pay the fees.
“I really love the library… and that’s why it’s devastating to me,” she said. “I might not be able to repay this for a while, so I don’t know how long I’m going to be without library privileges and it’s very sad for me because I’ve been a library borrower since that time. i am a child. ”