The new computer areas and closed-off stairwells of MU’s Ellis Library show a building under renovation and in the midst of progress. Plastic sheets block off the old in preparation for the new. But, despite the renovations, the library might be on the sharp end of a cut that could hinder its technological progress.
Last month, Gov. Matt Blunt suggested $240 million in cuts to the state budget. If approved, funding for the Missouri Bibliographic Information User System, commonly known as MOBIUS, would be eliminated. The cut of almost $650,000 would be MOBIUS’ entire state appropriation for the service that links the four University of Missouri campuses, along with St. Louis University, Washington University in St. Louis and 54 others. It would additionally force fee increases by at least 40 percent.
The cuts would affect universities across the state and come months after the University of Missouri Board of Curators voted to raise tuition 3.5 percent to reflect the rate of inflation. Such an increase will limit the student fees coming through the university next year.
“We haven’t the budget for that,” said Jim Cogswell, MU director of libraries. “It would have to come out of somewhere, and more than likely, it would be yet another pressure on tuition dollars and student fees to make that happen.”
As the largest institution in Missouri to use the system, MU would need to pay almost $120,000 more next year, up from the $260,000 it now pays to maintain the system, according to George Rickerson, executive director of MOBIUS. For the UM system to maintain the system, it would face an extra $222,000.
Last year, MU libraries loaned about 43,000 books though the system and borrowed about 33,000 from other MOBIUS libraries, Cogswell said. The cuts would jeopardize MU students’ access to information by restricting their access to the 17 million books from academic libraries across the state and to the 3.2 million at MU, he said.
“No library on the planet can have all the books being published,” Cogswell said. “Only by sharing books can we have more full access to everything that’s available.”
MOBIUS allows students to check out books from any of its 60 subscribing institutions throughout the state, including private universities. Students can find books through the system and have them delivered to their school’s library 48 hours later. The money for MOBIUS benefits students and faculty above all, Cogswell said.
“It’s not to benefit me or the library staff,” he said. “It’s to benefit the students, the faculty and the citizens of the state.”
These cuts come after Blunt’s office said in an Associated Press article last month that the $240 million in cuts would not affect money for public schools and higher education.
Rickerson said the system would not lose jobs or reduce services. Rickerson said the cuts do not follow Blunt’s promise to leave higher education operating funds untouched because they take funds from the subscribing universities instead.
“The cut to MOBIUS has the effect of cutting funds to support Missouri higher education because they would have to reallocate money from internal programs to pay MOBIUS costs,” Rickerson said. “It’s kind of a back door cut, I guess you could say.”
Blunt press secretary Jessica Robinson said the cuts to MOBIUS were a detail of the 20 percent reduction he announced in January. She said the governor has kept his promise to increase funding for education. She said that the reductions are spread across several state agencies and that higher education continued to receive the same amount of money as in the past.