Library deficits deepen

Despite attempts to eliminate budget deficits, MU Libraries’ financial woes could lead to a new student fee in the near future.

In October, Provost Brian Foster and Chancellor Brady Deaton pledged $600,000 to help decrease debt, but MU Libraries spokeswoman Shannon Cary said the deficit is closer to $900,000.

Missouri Students Association Senate Speaker Jonathan Mays, the MSA representative to the chancellor’s standing Library Committee, said the committee was considering a fee to address the deficit, but that they hadn’t yet made a formal request.

He said the steady inflation in journal subscription costs has added to the deficit.

Student Fee Review Committee chairwoman Marjorie Matzes-Thies said the potential library fee would fall under tuition fees.

“The new fee wouldn’t be included with student fees because of its academic importance,” she said.

Student Affairs Fiscal Officer Rich Anderson said if a new fee was implemented, the earliest it would become effective is 2010.

“If there was a fee, it would be proposed a year from now at the Board of Curators meeting,” he said. “It would then take another year for it to be effective.”

The Board of Curators is the governing board for the UM system’s four campuses.

Mays said the board’s meeting this week would determine student activities fees for the next fiscal year.

“For the 2009 fiscal year, there is no specific library fee charged to students,” Mays said.

He said one major challenge MU Libraries faces is finding a way to pay for the rapidly increasing costs of academic journals used by students.

“Journals get much more expensive every year and the library has many subscriptions to help students with research papers and other projects,” he said.

In a previous Maneater report, MU Libraries Director Jim Cogswell said the deficit is the result of the cost of journals and a stagnant budget that hasn’t increased with inflation.

He said the cost of journals is increasing seven to 12 percent per year, and that the library plans to spend less money on new subscriptions.

About 80 percent of the acquisition budget is made up by academic journals and the university receives around 30,000 journals annually, he said.

Mays said no tangible solution has been made for journal costs yet.

The possibility of a student fee was considered in early February, he said.

He said although the fee isn’t a necessity this year, it will remain a possibility if the deficit deepens in the future.

Foster has allocated additional money to cover the budget needs of the libraries for the 2009 fiscal year. The money isn’t enough to improve the library, and students probably won’t notice any changes, he said.

MSA President Jim Kelley said the important thing is to make efficient use of student fees.

“We’re dedicated to making sure the library has the resources it needs to be a part of this campus,” he said. “It’s a major focal point.”

He said he hopes to work with Cogswell to ensure student fees and money are used responsibly.

“Part of our job is to consider where the money of MU students goes,” he said. “It’s important for us to weigh the options before making a decision.”

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