MU students could get library improvements with proposed fee increase

Monday, January 30, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:04 a.m. CST, Monday, January 30, 2012

COLUMBIA — The Missouri Student Association is considering a proposal for a student library fee at MU. The fee would provide benefits for students that they have shown interest in.

Jim Cogswell, MU libraries director, said the fees from this proposal would go toward accommodating three main wants of students: a section of the library that is open 24 hours, more study space and expanded book collections.

"The idea of an additional library fee needs to be considered," Cogswell said. "I want to meet these needs, but it is getting more and more difficult to do with our current budget."

Ellis Library used to close at midnight. Currently, it is open until 2 a.m., but when that change was made, the library didn't receive any extra funding. It costs around $25,000 per year for Ellis Library to maintain these hours. Opening up the other branches of the MU Library system until 2 a.m. would bring that cost up to $35,000, Cogswell said.

The fees from the proposal would cover this cost and allow for expansions in the other areas the library is focusing on. Without these fees, Cogswell said he is not sure how much longer the library can keep the current hours.

If a new 24-hour section for the library were created, it would only be a small section of Ellis Library. Building an addition is not an option, but renovations and construction would be required to develop the new area.

In order to achieve the level of improvement the library hopes for, Cogswell said it would need to collect more than $100,000 per year, although that is a rough estimate until the proposal is completed. Each of the three goals would require a different amount of funding.

In comparison to the library's total annual budget of $13.9 million, this is not a large sum of money. It would cost about $3 a student to reach this goal, Ben Levin, academic affairs chairman at MU, said.

Cogswell and Levin will discuss and decide on the contents of the proposal this week. The library is scheduled to present the finished proposal to the MSA Senate’s Academic Affairs committee on Feb. 20.

The library has discussed student fees with MSA for the past five years. The last time the fees were considered an option because of budget constraints was in 2009, Cogswell said.

There is some debate as to whether students will support the implementation of a fee,  Levin said.

“MSA have conducted polls in the past that show skepticism towards a library fee,” he said. “But I imagine that things like 24-hour access and ‘for pleasure’ books will draw student support.”

“A lot of students have been wanting to see more from the library, a place to stay 24 hours,” MSA President Xavier Billingsley said. “There are a lot of periodicals right now. Students want to see more books in general.”

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