Tardy readers in Sheffield have racked up nearly £100,000 in fines for failing to return their library books on time.
In total there were 128,457 fines – totalling almost £95,000 – incurred by residents using Sheffield Council libraries in the last 12 months.
The council said that £74,170 of the fines had been collected, while £20,142 was outstanding.
Coun Mazher Iqbal, the council’s cabinet member for communities and public health, which covers libraries, said the authority did ‘all it could’ to stop books being returned late and fines being issued.
Staff write to residents who have clocked up the maximum fine – which is capped at £5 – and they cannot keep borrowing items until that is paid.
Coun Iqbal said: “We allow people, if they have access to a computer, to renew their books online and they can do that 24-7.
“We are doing whatever we can to remind people to renew their books or get them back to us on time.
“Before two years ago, it was an unlimited fine so people could stack up a fine of £50 or £100.
“For people on low incomes or benefits, when it gets to a certain point it just becomes impossible for them to pay it back.
“The £5 figure is something people could reasonably pay back. Even if it was 50p a week it wouldn’t take forever.”
Data uncovered under The Star’s Your Right To Know campaign also shows that 2,869 items are currently logged as ‘missing’ on the library’s management system.
The council said it could not detail the number of library books missing from each library, as a full inventory of each site would need to be undertaken.
It also said it did not have figures for how many books had gone missing in total over the last decade, as items are deleted from the system after a certain length of time.
Some readers of The Star said the £5 fine should be increased.
Philip Corker posted on Facebook: “Why don’t they just take a joining deposit of £10 and if they are more than two weeks late you lose your £10?”
And Angela Lane said: “Make it a £20 fine.”