The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Library Glitch Causes Fines to Add up

3 min read


There has been a glitch in the Simpson Library system that notifies students of overdue library materials, leading to several surprised students facing large fines.

According to Library Director Roy Strohl, when a patron checks out an item, he or she is given a paper receipt with the date the item is expected back. When the item is about to be due, the patron should also receive a notification via e-mail, but apparently this isn’t always the case.

Senior Kat Saunders attempted to check out some books for a paper she was writing only to discover that she owed the Simpson Library $120 in fines.

“People aren’t getting e-mails anymore when their books are about to be due,” Saunders said. “I had no idea I owed that much.”

Senior Nate Delano found himself in a similar situation. After checking several materials on March 19 for his history thesis, he went to turn them in about a month later and discovered he owed $130 in late fees.

“I just never got an email,” Delano said. “I think it’s unfair to just arbitrarily stop notifying students when their books are due.”

According to Strohl, however, this glitch in the system affects less than 1% of the student body.

“If a person returns their materials on time, then the entire matter would be moot,” Strohl said. “The overdue notices that have not gone out for one reason or another are more of a courtesy than anything.”

Strohl said that although it is difficult to pinpoint when the problem first occurred, in the beginning of the semester fewer items are due back. As the semester progresses, the momentum of circulation transactions increases, causing confusion in the system.

“The maddening thing about this particular problem is that it hasn’t been the same sort of problem day-to-day,” Strohl said. “Software handles virtually all of the transactions, as it should, but then a record comes along that isn’t processed correctly. There doesn’t seem to be a pattern or identifiable issue that would account for the problem.”

According to Strohl, the reason behind the glitch has been identified as a software problem that appeared in the current release of Simpson Library’s integrated library operating systems. This problem may be unique to this library and could possibly be influenced by the converging issues related to the school’s particular computing hardware, the campus network and the student record database.

Additionally, Strohl notes that the library is short of systems personnel and because of the larger operating needs of the library, the personnel has not been available to fully focus on this issue.

This means this situation will have to wait until the semester ends to be fixed. In order to install the needed software, Strohl said the entire system would have to be down for several days, making bibliographic records unavailable via the catalog in addition to closing off all circulation transactions until the system restarted.

Strohl also noted that the school is considering bringing in some outside help from the vendor in Blacksburg. In the meantime, patrons are able to go online and check their record to find out when the items are due back and even renew their checkout if so desired.