UTPA library staff discuss fees, fines

Some might think that in the Digital Age, books are obsolete, but the employees of the University library can attest otherwise. The library currently has 6,842 overdue books and $106,038.17 worth of unpaid fines on its record. Fines date back as far as 30 years ago to as recent as seven days, according to Associate Director of the UTPA library Rick Peralez.

Peralez explained there are three actions that can take place in order to overcome fees going unpaid. The first action that will take place is a hold on their student bill, which only affects a student from checking out material from the library but does not prevent registration for classes.

A library fine of 25 cents per day per book will appear on their student bill to be capped at $35. If the book is still not returned after the cap, they are considered “lost” and the student will be billed the total cost of the book.

If a student graduates without paying a library fine, a transcript hold will then be placed on their account.

“In the case of someone graduating and they leave still owing the library money, (the library) will put a transcript hold,” said Peralez, an Edinburg resident. “(So) even if you graduated 10 years ago and you later come back to get a transcript, the school will not give you a transcript until you pay the fine you have.”

Not only does the library have a record of what goes unpaid but the state of Texas does as well. By law, state agencies such as public and private universities are required to report a Texas Identification Number System document addressing anyone indebted to them and will keep that information current.

“When you owe money to the library it’s not money for us directly, it goes to the state. Even if the fine is 10 or 20 years old the state has a record of you owing them money,” Peralez said. “If the state ever has funds to give you in the form of a check or some kind of disbursement what they’ll do is subtract the amount you owe them and give you the difference. (The fine) will then be removed from their record.”

The library has a specific budget to use for ordering books, approximately $569,000 a year. The budget cannot be used for anything other than library books for students and faculty.

The money that is collected from unreturned books is then put back into the budget and used to replace the missing books.

“Every year (the library) runs a report of all the books that have been missing and then the collection development librarian will make a list and determine which books we need to replace or wait to order,” Peralez said. “Sometimes we might not order the same book that went missing in the first place. It all depends on which books are in demand and other books we may just be able to wait and see if someone returns it.”

Depending on the subject of the book, Peralez said often the library will use the lost book fees to replace health and science books over humanity books due to their high demand.

Dean of the Library Farzaneh Razzaghi explains the library has evolved over the past 20 years when it comes to helping borrowers return books. Technology has played a large role in making it easier to extend due dates. such as online renewals where a borrower can continue holding onto checked out material, that is not overdue, through the library’s online catalog.

“Nowadays, compared to 20 years ago, there was not an online catalog where you could renew your books, you had to bring your book to the circulation desk to renew it,” the Edinburg resident said. “Now, before (the books) expire you can actually renew the books for another two weeks and can keep renewing it as long as no one else asks for the book. But even with all these things that have been facilitated for students there are still times when students forget to return material.”

Another way the library tries to collect missing books is by offering amnesty for all missing books, no matter how delinquent, that are returned during National Library Week. First sponsored in 1958 by the American Library Association, National Library Week is a national observance celebrated each April by libraries across the country.

Library assistant Edna Luna, who is in charge of collecting fines, explained that in 2013 the library received 253 books and waved $1,800 in fines during National Library Week.

“During this week I have a report of everyone who has overdue books and we get flyers offering amnesty. We mail them out and we even put it on Bronc Notes,” the Edinburg native said. “I’m so glad that they make use of (National Library Week). I frown upon the students that come in and say they’re upset about the fines when (the library) gives you so much time and ways to get the books back.”

Razzaghi explained the library has many different patrons such as students, faculty and community members. She believes fees and fines come with working in a library that serves more than 20,000 students and 4,000 faculty affiliates and Edinburg citizens.

“I honestly don’t think there is an issue because every single library in the world has patrons that bring books late or lose the books,” she said. “(The library) is not in a unique situation at all, it’s a normal issue that happens in all libraries. People think it’s sort of ideal for a library not to have fines, but in reality no there’s no such thing as a library not having fines…it’s just part of the business.”