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Widener Plan Isn't Curing Plague of Overdue Books

By David Beach

Widener Library's new overdue book policy that charges delinquent borrowers the cost of sending notices instead of daily fines has failed to reduce the number of overdue books there.

David T. Buxton '69, circulation librarian for the Harvard College Library, said yesterday that after the new policy was introduced last April, the quantity of overdue books sharply decreased to about 3 per cent of all books borrowed by students, University employees and special borrowers.

However, now the rate is approaching its former level of about 9 per cent, Buxton said.


Buxton attributed the initial reduction to the publicity which accompanied the implementation of the plan. He said he believes people are now forgetting about the policy.

Widener's new system charges borrowers only for the cost of processing and mailing overdue notices. There are no longer daily ten-cent fines.

Widener mails a first notice after a book is one week overdue at a charge of $1 and a second notice two weeks later at a charge of $4.


If the book has not been returned after another two weeks, the library assumes it is lost and sends a final notice. This costs $10 for the notice itself, plus $12 for the administrative work required to order a new copy of the book, plus the actual cost of the book.

The total cost for failing to return a $10 book, then, can be $37. The library usually adds such charges to a student's term bill.

Buxton said he prefers the new system because the library no longer loses money on overdue books.

But he added that all the wasted staff-time means the library cannot provide all the services it otherwise could

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