Rethink the Recall System

Marti Stelling (she/her)

The University Library has a system in place so that if somebody requests a book, the person who has had it on loan for the longest amount of time has the book recalled.

(Image: PIXABAY)

This means that even if somebody needs the book for a seminar or essay, they must return the book to the library or face a “inconvenience charge”.

The library is a valuable resource to thousands of students, many of whom may financially have no other option but to loan books from the library for their studies. The library should be there to help those who need access to books for whatever reason. It should not be charging students, especially as many people use the library because they cannot afford to buy their university books in the first place.

I understand the reasoning for the recall scheme; however, it is not the right way to approach text shortages. If there are more people requesting copies of texts than there are available in the library, there is clearly a supply issue.

The University clearly has enough funding to provide enough copies of core texts in the library for students. Simply take a look at Fairhurst library which has recently been fitted with a fleet of shiny iMacs. Ten pounds looks very different to me than how it looks to the University.

Last term, I wrote out a list of the books I would need for a particular module and set about finding them in the library in early December. Finding them took me about an hour, but I knew that preparing in advance would mean that I wouldn’t be stuck without a copy.

However, they all got requested by other students last minute, meaning I had to return them and buy my own copies, which defeats the point of using the library in the first place!

After contacting the library helpdesk following being issued a ten pound “inconvenience charge” and having my account blocked for not returning a book I needed for a seminar, I was sent this statement:

“Any items you borrow are subject to recall. Our loan system aims to respond to demand for items. Reducing the loan period when someone places a request is the fairest way to satisfy demand.”

The library kindly wavered my fee (which I was politely warned will not happen again), yet I still had to return my books to the library the same day, meaning I wouldn’t have the texts I needed for my seminar.

There is an intrinsic unfairness in forcing students to return books that they took out early because somebody else has requested them. I could request a book on the library website right now and the person who took the book out latest would be forced to return their copy.

We need to rethink the recall system. Students should not be left deciding whether to risk having their account banned or going without core books for university.