Economics and behaviour: what library fines tell us about ourselves

Sometimes embarrassment can be more effective incentive than imposing a fee

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown library. In 2017, the library generated income of €103,083 from fines, down from €120,166 in 2016. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown library. In 2017, the library generated income of €103,083 from fines, down from €120,166 in 2016. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

It’s not every day that an institution – public or not – will wave goodbye to a guaranteed income stream in order to try and improve our behaviour. But this is just what libraries across the State have done since the beginning of this year.

Libraries have always been a haven of free books, with the only caveat for the user being that the titles be returned on time. If not, you could expect fines, which started off benign, at about 5 to 10 cent a day, but could ramp up quite quickly if you didn’t bring that book, CD, DVD or video game back.

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