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6 ways to avoid a library fine

Using the library is a great way to access books for free at uni. But only if you avoid getting fined for late or lost books. Here are some handy tips to help you stay clear of these debts.

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Library fines should always be avoided. For starters, they're a drain on your finances. But you might also find that you can't borrow or renew any more books until you pay the fines. This would be very inconvenient if you're doing last-minute revision and urgently need a book from the library.

The cost of library fines will vary from uni to uni. But, as a general rule, you could be asked to pay around 25p per day for late books. This might not sound like much, but it quickly adds up (especially if there are multiple books that you need to return).

However, the good news is that library fines are easily avoidable, as these six tips show...

How to avoid library fines

Here are the best ways to avoid having to pay a library fine:

  1. Keep track of your library books' due dates

    Access to the library is easily one of the best free things you can get from university. But, it's only free as long as you return all of your books on time.

    To avoid late fees, find a system that helps you keep track of the books you've taken out, making a note of when they're all due.

    The easiest way to do this is probably to set reminders on your phone for each book's due date. Ideally, you should aim to set the reminder for a day or two in advance. This will help you avoid getting to the day it's due, only to find you don't have time to go to the library.

    Alternatively, you could keep a spreadsheet which covers the due dates.

    Or, if you have a whiteboard or noticeboard (you can usually find them in Wilko), this will help a lot. On your board, you can list down the dates your library books are due. Just make sure you're in the habit of checking it regularly.

  2. Study in the library

    man taking book off shelf

    Credit: Morakot Kawinchan – Shutterstock

    You don't necessarily need to take books out of the library to use them. If you stay in the library to read books, you'll avoid the risk of taking them home and forgetting to return them.

    You may find there are times when you do need to take a book out. If, say, you're writing an essay that's due the next day but the library is closing soon, you'll want to take the books home.

    But, if you stay in the library to study whenever possible, you'll generally be able to avoid fines.

  3. Don't lend out library books to friends

    Even though it might seem like a nice thing to do, don't lend your library books out to your friends. As they're taken out under your name, the books are your responsibility to look after.

    If your friend is late returning the book to you (or, worse, they lose the book) you'll have to face the cost. Although you might hope that they'd pay you to cover the library fine, this isn't guaranteed. It could then lead to a pretty awkward conversation to ask for the money back.

    As well as this, you also shouldn't lend out your library card to anyone else. The same reason applies: whatever is taken out from the library under your name is your responsibility.

    You might even find that it's in the library's policy that you can't lend books and library cards out to others.

  4. Use free online resources

    woman using laptop

    Credit: Atanas Bezov - Shutterstock

    To access books for free outside of library hours, have a look online. You might be able to find some of the texts you need on Google Scholar.

    But, when reading some parts of a book in the library and other parts online, be careful with essay referencing. If the online and physical copies are different editions, the page numbers might not match. Double-check this, and only use the page numbers from one version for consistency.

    You can also read academic journals on sites like JSTOR (one of the most useful websites for students). These journals can help massively with essays and assignments and should be free for you to read from home.

    Unsure if you have free access to JSTOR or similar sites through uni? Ask your tutor or student services to find out.

  5. Offer to replace lost library books

    You should always try your best to look after library books. But, if you do lose any, contact the library as soon as you can to let them know. The longer you wait to tell them and get it sorted, the more you might need to pay.

    When reporting it as lost, it's worth offering to buy a replacement copy. This could save you money if you find one that's in good condition and costs less than the library's replacement fee. You could always check with the library how much the full fee would be if you're unsure.

    You may still need to pay an admin fee after replacing the library's copy. But, you'd likely need to pay this fee even if you couldn't find a replacement copy.

    Of course, you'll save more money if you find the library book and avoid the need to replace it. Try to be as thorough as you can when looking for it.

  6. Buy books you need

    With books that are essential for your course, you might need them for longer than the library's standard borrowing period. You can usually renew books when they're approaching their return date – as long as no one else has requested them.

    To avoid needing to return books before you're ready, you could consider buying your own copy if possible. This takes away the pressure of having a time limit on how long you can hold onto it.

    It can also help to buy books if you find it difficult to keep track of library due dates. Owning the books gives you one less thing to worry about.

    To find the best deals on books, have a read of our guide to saving money on textbooks.

    Then, when you no longer need them, you can make a fair bit of money back by selling the books online.

Access to the library is just one of many great things you can get for free from uni.

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