Lost Book Policy FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions


Of the thousands of books checked out annually to guests, on average 130 never come back. Assuming the replacement cost is on average $50 per book, the library loses $6,500 each year. If the library is to continue the practice of loaning books to people other than current employees and students, borrowers who lose library material must assume responsibility for the total replacement cost of material. The alternative, which is not attractive to either the thousands of non-Calvin users or the college, is to eliminate direct borrowing by guests.


Why a flat fee?

In many cases, we don’t know how much the replacement costs will be until the item is ordered. Sometimes, we can order the same book. But, if the item is out of print, we may order another book on the same subject. In most cases, the fine amount will not cover the entire replacement cost. If the library charged the full replacement cost, many people would pay more than $50. There is less administrative cost (which would be passed on to the borrower) associated with a flat fee.


Why $50?

There are two costs associated with replacing a book: the purchase cost and the processing cost. After analyzing staff time, third party service fees, and cost of physically processing material, we arrived at an average processing cost of $19 for paperbacks and $12 for hardcover items. Based on 2001 information, library quality paperbacks cost on average $29.50 and hardcover books cost on average $60. Academic libraries typically purchase books that are not “popular press” items. So, the average replacement cost for a paperback book is $49 and $72 for a hardcover book. The fine is not unreasonable and, in fact, the library loses money each year.

The item I lost was an inexpensive popular press book. Why do I have to pay $50?
Remember that nearly half of the lost book fine is the overdue fine and processing costs. So, the disputable portion of the lost book fine is approximately $25. However, there are items in the collection that are much less than $25. The library director will determine the amount of the fine when the item appears to be very inexpensive. At no time will the fine be less than $25.

The book was hardly ever used!
The borrower assumed responsibility for material purchased by Calvin College. The usage of the lost item is irrelevant to the issue.

Why can’t I replace it myself?
There are many issues associated with purchasing a replacement; identifying proper edition, physical condition, new or used, and the correct title to name just a few. The library staff is experienced in making these decisions, knows where to locate the best purchase price, and will make a final decision based on the best interests of the library.


Contact Carla Moyer for more information.