The Ithaca College Library has resolved to eliminate late fees and reduce recall fees after the Class of 2017 senator, Drew Olkowski, presented his Student Government Association bill to library staff on Oct. 29.
At the SGA meeting on Oct. 21, Olkowski presented his bill for the first time to his fellow student-government members. The original bill called for a 50 percent reduction in the library’s late fees. It passed with an 11–8 vote.
Olkowski said he conceived the idea for the bill after he was recently charged with a late fee and found himself shocked at how expensive it was.
“I got a library fine for turning a book in late… and I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ A dollar doesn’t break a wallet or anything, but it’s just a lot to pay for educational resources,” Olkowski said.
Currently, the library charges $1 each day the book is late, and once a book has been recalled, or requested by another student, the fine jumps to $5 a day. A student can be charged a maximum of $20 for a late book, and interlibrary loan items can accumulate up to $50.
Access Services Manager Ben Hogben at the Ithaca College Library co-sponsored Olkowski’s bill. As of Jan. 1, 2014, the library will no longer charge fines for overdue books, scores, laptops or popular readings. Recall fines will remain in place, but they will be reduced from $5 a day to $1 a day.
“The library looked into it and said that the general trend was going toward e-books and not really having library fines for institutions,” Olkowski said. “They said by doing this we’re going to be ahead of the curve.”
The Class of 2017 senator spent part of his fall break researching and contacting other college libraries and creating a spreadsheet to compare results. He scrutinized the top 50 college libraries from U.S. News’s Regional University North Rankings list, looked into the Tompkins County Public Library’s policies and spoke with the college’s librarians.
Olkowski’s hard work impressed his peers, including the SGA president, Cedrick-Michael Simmons.
“It’s awesome how much [work] is going, in terms of research, into your bills,” Simmons said. “Calling 50 libraries is awesome.”
Olkowski’s research showed that among other colleges, the Ithaca College Library had the most expensive late fees, despite having similar checkout periods of half a semester.
When Senate Chair Elijah Breton opened the floor for questions and comments at the meeting, some of the other SGA members revealed they had concerns about the bill, including transfer student senator Heru Craig.
“Considering the fact that there’s such a huge amount of time that we can have these resources for, I think that the incentive should be there for students to return the book,” Craig said.
Senator-at-large Jamila Carter shared Craig’s concerns about eliminating incentives.
“I’m interested in what percentage of students actually return the books late, because there is such a long period, so why should you return them late if you have a month and a half with these materials?” Carter said. “Isn’t lowering the cost of it lowering initiative to bring these books back?”
Despite these concerns, the bill passed with a close vote, and the SGA formed a committee to set the provisions of the bill into motion. Olkowski’s committee met with library staff Oct. 29 to present the bill and discuss its feasibility. Olkowski said the staff was receptive and the conference had a positive outcome.
“I honestly love working with them, and I think that they were very helpful with the bill and everything else,” Olkowski said.
The library also told Olkowski that it advises every student to send it their most commonly used email, especially if they don’t use their college email as often, so the library can successfully contact students when there is a recall on a book they have checked out.
Olkowski said the success of his initiative goes to show how proactive the SGA can be as a force for change on campus. The next step is to have the updated bill passed into law at the upcoming SGA meeting on Nov. 4.