Library fee subject of discussion on KCOU radio show
If passed, the fee could raise $13 million at its highest rate.
Nov. 05, 2015
The proposed library fee was the topic of KCOU and The Maneater’s radio show The Student Voice on Nov. 4. MU Libraries Director of Advancement Matt Gaunt and MU senior and former MSA cabinet member Gunnar Johanson discussed the pros and cons of the library fee with co-hosts Jack Herrick of The Maneater and Kasey Carlson of KCOU.
The proposed library fee would fund library renovations. If passed, the fee will begin at $5 per credit hour and increase by $2 per year until it reaches $15 per credit hour in 2022. At $15 per credit hour the libraries would receive $13 million in funding.
Gaunt said the library fee first became an option in September 2014 when it became apparent that the needed funding would not come from elsewhere. He also said that the library system is the only academic unit on campus without a fee. Gaunt explained that because of Senate Bill 389, which only allows tuition raises at the level of the Consumer Price Index, academic programs have had to rely on fees to support them.
“Fees are driving all revenues on this campus because of the tuition cap,” Gaunt said. He said that the library can no longer rely on funding just through tuition and needs a fee to be supported.
In March, the Missouri Students Association voted to include the library fee referendum on the November ballot. MSA and the Residence Halls Association both formally endorse the fee.
Johanson called MSA’s endorsement “unprecedented” and said that MSA does not usually fully endorse issues.
Gaunt said that there is a direct correlation between universities that have great library budgets and universities that do high levels of research. He cited Texas A&M and the Universities of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin as four schools that have large library budgets and are leaders in research. He also said that out of the 62 schools that belong to the Association of American Universities, MU ranks last for dollars spent per student for libraries.
“There’s no doubt that great universities have great libraries,” Gaunt said.
Both Gaunt and Johanson believe that the libraries are severely underfunded and need help, but Johanson takes issue with the fee and believes that it should not fall to students to fund the libraries.
“In an ideal world, the fee would fail and we would redirect our energy and our activism maybe to pressure either administration into setting the library as a funding priority, as we have shown it needs to be, or divert our attention to the state and just ask ask them to give us more money,” Johanson said, both of which are “huge undertakings.”
If passed, the fee would support all of the libraries on campus except the Law Library. Gaunt said they would like to add 40 new staff positions and noted that the average public AAU school has 255 staff members for its libraries, while MU has a staff of 156, a cutback from 208 in 2001.
According to the library fee funding proposal, other priorities include establishing a digital media lab, installing self-checkout kiosks and renovating the Grand Reading Room in Ellis Library. Gaunt said that priorities could change over time depending on student feedback.
Johanson said that passing the library fee would set a “dangerous precedent” by showing the state that students are willing to pay for anything that state funding doesn’t cover.
“What’s next?” Johanson asked. “We’ve been capping tuition because we have to, but we’ve been covering that up with increased departmental fees. The library, which is a core component of the university, is about to be funded by students too. What’s next, professors? Salaries?”
Gaunt said he recognizes that affordability is an issue. He said that if 15,000 need-based $1,000 scholarships were created, it would allow students who need the aid to not be burdened by the fee. Johanson said it is unrealistic to expect more scholarships from the state.
“For those students who are…struggling to pay their university bill and whether that bill is the difference between groceries for the month or paying the bill for the month, which for many students it is, I would say no, don’t pass the fee,” Johanson said.
Voting for the library fee will take place Nov. 9-11 at vote.missouri.edu.