"Libraries are facing competition from television, magazines, the
internet, e-books, yet they have this archaic and mad idea of charging
people money for being slightly late," said library consultant Frances
Hendrix – a loud voice in the debate which has been taking place on an
online forum for librarians. "It’s all so negative, unprofessional and
unbusinesslike; like any business, libraries need not to alienate their
customers." Liz Dubber, director of programmes at reading charity The
Reading Agency, agreed. "My personal view [is that] they’re past their
sell-by date because they do sustain a very old-fashioned image of
libraries which is out of sync with today’s modern library environment
and the image libraries are trying to project – tolerant, responsive,
flexible, stimulating," she said.
Some critics have described the fines as "alienating." But are there alternatives?:
One librarian suggested adopting the ancient practice of some
monasteries, in which monks who offended in the handling of books were
publicly cursed. Another pointed to Soviet Russia, where they said that
offenders’ names were published in newspapers to shame them into
returning their books. In New Zealand town Palmerston North next week,
library users returning late books are being challenged to beat
librarians on Guitar Hero to have their fines waived.
In any case this economist will suggest higher fines for very new and popular books and also commonly used reference manuals, combined with lower fines for everything else.