Revealed: London’s libraries reap millions in fines for overdue loans

London’s libraries have levied more than £5 million in fines since 2015, we can reveal.

An investigation by SWLondoner using Freedom of Information requests found south west London’s libraries alone have raked in more than £1.3 million in fines.

COVID closures and return amnesties have left many libraries without this income and many have not returned to their pre-COVID way of running.

For 10-year-old bookworm Nicholas Hampartsoumian this is what he misses most about Whitton Library, which is on the way home from his school in Richmond.

The library offers a click and collect service, and allows just 15 minutes for browsing.

Nicholas explained: “So you order this book online, then you go in, collect the book, leave. 

“And when you’re finished with the book you go in, put it in this box, then leave.”

Nicholas’ favourite collection of books is the Barry Loser series

“It’s quite funny and everyone in those books have very big noses. Their noses are as long as my finger. That’s a long nose.”

Nicholas’ father Paul Hampartsoumian said his son used to go to Whitton Library every day after school.

Mr Hampartsoumian said: “It’s a really valuable asset. 

“It encourages his reading and gives him an endless supply of material so it’s important for his education.”

Click on a borough to find out how much it has levied in library fines since 2015.

Since 2015 Sutton has raked in the third highest amount of library fines across London with £307,325. 

Richmond was close behind with the eighth highest amount across London with close to £245,000.

Richmond’s lead Councillor for culture John Coombs said the amount his borough garnered in fines was interesting but its library fines are not essential for the running of council services.

Instead they are useful in ensuring residents return stock.

He said: “Libraries are exceptionally important. 

“When we went into lockdown originally people couldn’t go to their libraries. 

“The amount of e-registration that went on and the amount of books that were being downloaded via the internet jumped up by a phenomenal figure – it’s an over 300% increase in usage via the e-service.”

But 10-year-old Nicholas said e-books were not for him. 

He said one of the aspects of a physical book he likes most is the typeface.

Nicholas said: “There are some books which look like they were written by pencil and it’s quite squiggly writing. 

“I like that kind of writing.”

Top ten highest amounts levied in library fines across London:

  1. Southwark: £339,290
  2. Redbridge: £336,531
  3. Sutton: £307,325.80
  4. Havering: £301,683
  5. Bexley: £282,692.41
  6. Barnet: £253,717
  7. Merton: £253,521
  8. Richmond upon Thames: £244,989
  9. Bromley: £236,052
  10. Wandsworth: £226,077

Total across London: £5,122,657.67

Total across South West London: £1,330,275.21

Featured image credit: Paul Hampartsoumian

Related Articles