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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Dec. 8, 2006

Library student fee a possibility

by Erin Rosacker

After a tentative start two years ago, a push to institute a student library fee is gaining momentum. The fee, which would be the same for undergraduate and graduate students, is a recommendation from Iowa State's University Library Committee (ULC). It has been sent to the Government of the Student Body and the Graduate and Professional Student Senate.

According to library dean Olivia Madison, budget cuts and modest funding increases, coupled with skyrocketing external costs, have made it difficult just to maintain what she calls the library's basic needs, such as acquisitions and staffing needs.

"This may be a very powerful mechanism to help us to continue to put the scholarly resources that our students and faculty need in their hands," said Dave Hopper, who is chair of the ULC.

If a student fee were initiated, the funds would be maintained separately and a student advisory committee established to make recommendations for use of the money. Madison said the money generated from the student fees would not be used to pay for the library's basic needs. It would be used for ideas, projects and proposals submitted by library users or student groups.

Some examples that Madison cited include purchasing textbooks to place on reserve, extended library hours, revamped group study areas and state-of-the-art technology. Other updates, such as expanded electricity access for today's tech-savvy students and furnishings to replace the outdated one-person study carrels, also are needed.

(Almost) Everyone's doing it

A student library fee is nothing new. Eight Big 12 Conference schools already have one in place.

"All of the fees that I'm aware of from other (Big 12) institutions have been credit-hour based," Madison said. "We are not proposing a credit-hour based fee; rather, it would be a set dollar fee and it would be the same for graduate students and undergraduate students."

According to Hopper, that per credit hour fee is big money for schools like Texas A&M.

"I was flabbergasted," Hopper said. "Texas A&M has a $21 or $22 per credit hour fee for the library. You don't have to do the math on that to figure out that's a significant amount of money."

The ULC produced three scenarios for ISU's proposed fee, which would be assessed each semester and in the summer session. A $50 fee would help the library strive "toward excellence," a $25 fee would "meet core needs" and a $10 fee would be used "toward meeting core needs."

"I'm very positive about what we would be able to do in terms of meeting student needs with this proposal," Madison said. "It's ultimately going to come down to the students and whether it makes sense to them."

What's next

Draft resolutions in support of a $50 fee were presented in November meetings of both the GSB and GPSS. The GPSS did not change the $50 recommendation, but the GSB amended its resolution to reflect a $25 fee. The resolutions were tabled, with both groups asking for student feedback on the proposal.

Madison said the ULC has a subcommittee focusing on the student fee issue. That subcommittee, which includes all three of the ULC's student members, is working on a plan to gather student feedback as well as create an information campaign to educate students about the fee.

That process should be under way early next semester, Madison said.

"It's very important to get a lot of ownership, in terms of how we're approaching it, so that there is a strong comfort level," Madison said. "I'm optimistic about our ability to make a very strong case. I really believe that this fee would be building upon the strengths that we currently have."

If the fee gets the support of the student organizations, there still are plenty of hoops to jump through. The proposal would have to get approval from the campus special student fee and tuition committee, the provost and the president before making its way to the Board of Regents, State of Iowa.

Neither the University of Iowa nor the University of Northern Iowa has a library fee, but Madison said both schools are closely monitoring the progress here.

"We would be the first of the three institutions to have a library fee," Madison said. "The other two institutions are very interested in what we do. My strong assumption is that if, in the end, this process results in a library student fee, that UNI and Iowa will follow suit very quickly."


The University Library Committee is recommending a student library fee, taking the plan to student leaders for consideration.


"I'm very positive about what we would be able to do in terms of meeting student needs with this proposal. It's ultimately going to come down to the students and whether it makes sense to them."

Olivia Madison, library dean