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Overdue? Fine.

By Chris Tangeman

As of today, July 1, 2019, at 12:00:01 a.m., the University Libraries at the University of Dayton no longer charge users for overdue library materials. Literally. And when I say “literally,” I mean “literally” according to the Oxford English Dictionary definitions 1.a., “In a literal, exact, or actual sense; not figuratively, allegorically, etc.,” and 1.b., “Used to indicate that the following word or phrase must be taken in its literal sense, usually to add emphasis.”

So we have literally tossed the cash register out the window. And this time when I say “literally” I mean “literally” according to the Oxford English Dictionary’s much despised definition 1.c. colloquial., “Used to indicate that some (frequently conventional) metaphorical or hyperbolical expression is to be taken in the strongest admissible sense: ‘virtually, as good as.’” *

no, we're not kidding

Truly, we no longer have a cash register. Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re probably wondering:

  • “Will I have to worry about returning that book that is due today, even though I am not feeling well and don’t want to go to campus?”
    Answer: No, stay home and recuperate! There will be no overdue fine when you feel well enough to come in and return the book in a couple of days.
  • “Do I still have to pay that $3.00 fine I got for returning an Android charger after its due date last year?”
    Answer: No, that overdue fine has been forgiven!
  • “Will I be reimbursed for the $50 OhioLINK fine I paid three months ago?”
    Answer: Sadly, no. That was the policy at the time. The great rift in the Policy-Time-Continuum occurred at exactly midnight between June and July of 2019.
  • “Can I just keep that calculator and that copy of Milk: The Deadly Poison that I checked out from our library?”
    Answer: No. While there are no overdue fines, there are still replacement fees for unreturned materials.
  • “OK. But I checked out a copy of Sheep Blowfly Investigations: The Attractiveness of Sheep for Lucilia cuprina from Ohio State, and I have already reached the maximum of six renewals. Can I just keep it for another month, until the end of this semester?”
    Answer: No. While it’s true that the replacement fee will disappear once the book is returned (safely and in good condition), the replacement fee comes much more quickly than before (two weeks after the due date), and it can keep you from registering for classes and using other library services in the meantime.

The fine print: you still have to return it.

Don't get the wrong idea: Late-fee-free does not mean scot-free. You still need to bring our stuff back. To find out all the ins and outs of living in an overdue-fine-free world, see the Libraries’ Borrow, Renew, Request page. The main point is this: When you use the many resources that the Libraries have to offer, we are not looking to gain financially from our users’ mistakes (not that we ever brought in a whole lot from library fines). We just want our materials back in a timely manner so that your fellow students, staff, and faculty can use them! Much like the title characters in the classic 1986 film The Three Amigos (seriously, go watch it; now ... literally), we don’t require a cash reward for our services: “Our reward is that justice has been done."

So, if you check out a book and keep it a little past its due date, there is no monetary penalty! If you continue to keep it until you receive notice that you have been assessed a replacement fee, then return it, there is no monetary penalty! If you lose a charger or accidentally toss a library book into the Caspian Sea, well, then you will be responsible for the replacement fee. But barring those catastrophes, you will pay zero dollars when the materials are returned.

Our rightful place in history

As a result of this announcement, subsequent generations of scholars will long continue the debate as to which historical event has proven to be July 1’s most earth-shattering:

  • The 1862 founding of the Russian State Library.
  • The 1915 birth of MLB pitcher Cletus Elwood "Boots" Poffenberger.
  • The 1963 non-mandatory introduction of the United States' five-digit ZIP codes.
  • The 1971 birth of Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott.
  • The 1979 first sale (in Japan) of Sony’s Walkman.
  • The 1990 reunification of East and West Germany.
  • The 2019 eradication of overdue fines in the University of Dayton Libraries.

My (non-scholarly) vote is for the July 1 of 2019.

Citation

"literally, adv.". OED Online. June 2019. Oxford University Press. https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/109061?redirectedFrom=literally (accessed June 05, 2019).

Postscript

Chris Tangeman is an interlibrary loan borrowing specialist in the University Libraries. He would literally never incur an overdue fine himself, but he tries to understand that life sometimes happens. Even so, he secretly worries that eliminating overdue fines will encourage bad borrowing behaviors. Prove him wrong. Literally.

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