Library forum reveals concerns about potential new fee

Students will vote for the fee on Nov. 9.

Catchy tunes could be heard coming from room 114 in Ellis Library as students in support of a possible self-imposed library fee handed out fliers regarding a public forum held Oct. 15.

The goal of the forum was to answer questions that students had about the fee that would go toward renovations and improvements to the library system.

The fee would begin at $5 per credit hour for each student and continue to increase by $2 each year until reaching its peak in 2022, when the total fee would amount to $15 per credit hour. At its highest, the fee would encompass 1.4% of a student’s total cost of attending. At the $15 fee level, the library would receive over $13 million.

“Great universities have great libraries,” said Library Ambassador Tyler Adelstein, one of the students handing out flyers outside the forum. “Mizzou is in the bottom tier in terms of funding for their libraries.”

Before beginning the presentation, students rushed to a table in the back of the room to pick up free Chick-Fil-A and a T-shirt. The room quieted down as Matt Gaunt, director of advancement for MU Libraries, took the floor and began to explain the need for a fee.

“Do we have a great Rec Center?” Gaunt said. “Yes, we do. We have that because students wanted it. Do we have a great Student Center? Yes, we do; because students wanted it. The Rec Center can keep you healthy, the Student Center can keep you connected to your peers, but the library is the heart of your academic life.”

Currently, the library is the only academic unit on campus without a fee, Gaunt said. Not only would the fee help fund Ellis Library, it would also go toward every other library on campus, apart from the law library.

The effects of not having a library that operates partially under money from fees can be severe, Gaunt said. MU has dropped to No. 103 on the U.S. News and World Report and could potentially be dropped by the Association of American Universities of which MU has been a member since 1908.

The Missouri Students Association has endorsed the campaign for the library fee and wanted to focus on bringing the library into the 21st century as well as creating better amenities and new staff positions, MSA Academic Affairs chairwoman Tori Schafer said.

“There will be advancement to make our library work better for the students, help you find information faster and also find better information,” Schafer said.

The fee would account for $20 million for renovations and a compensation plan for staff. It would also allow for 40 new positions such as web service positions, student library staff, digital curators and digital media experts.

In addition, staff members would receive better compensation for work. Over nine of the past 12 years, library staff members have not received a single raise, MSA Budget chairman Bill Vega said.

“One of the main things you may see is compensation, and you may see they’re paying their staff more,” Vega said. “It means better quality. It means keeping youth. It means keeping people who are engaged. It means keeping the best staff that you can possibly keep.”

In addition to the amenities that will be added with funding, the library is also introducing a new student organization. On Oct. 14, an MU student advisory board was formed so that students could have a say in the way funds for the libraries were allocated as well as act as a general student voice for MU libraries. The student advisory board will include 25 students and will exist even if the fee fails to pass.

When the forum was opened to question and answer, there was some support from students. Others expressed concern that the amount they pay for attending MU is already high enough.

“My main concerns are that we’re already paying high tuition and high student fees as it is and there’s other ways they can fund the library” sophomore Patrick Lacey said. “They have only been looking for funding since January of 2015.”

Other students during the question and answer session suggested asking alumni for funding as well as increasing fundraising efforts.

Despite some student doubt, many remain hopeful that the fee will be approved.

“If this fee doesn’t pass, I won’t have access to the largest databases that could be used for research, so I think it’s pretty important,” Adelstein said.

With voting for the fee approaching Nov. 9, students and staff are adamant about spreading the word in support of funding MU libraries across campus.

“Vote yes. Don’t get less than you’ve paid for," Gaunt said.

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