Budget crunches on library, but multiple solutions are available
Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 20:09
The campus is abuzz with controversy as the new library hours take effect. Eagle News reported the first week of school that the library hours had been reduced to just 69.5 hours a week. There were cries of outrage from a number of students. There are a few things that should be addressed first before moving forward.
Not all students ignore their email. In the front page article from Sept. 5, Dr. Kathleen Miller was quoted as saying that “[a]n e-mail was sent to faculty and staff to notify the changes, but in my experience, the majority of students do not check their email.” This assumption that students do not check their email might be one of the major sources of discontent about the hour changes.
Students interviewed for both aforementioned articles have indicated that they feel left out of the process. They should feel that way, especially since the student activity and service fees have been keeping the library open extended hours since 2010, when Student Government allocated $15,426 to expand hours.
The fact that students may not answer emails is well documented, but to not inform the student body about a place they use to study being scaled back is pretty wrong.
In January Student Government stepped up to the plate again paying $6,360, a matching amount paid by FGCU, to keep the library open extended hours. However, in August the library decided that due to budget cuts they would reduce the numbers of hours from 108 to the 69.5 that is upsetting people.
The library’s budget was only set at $1,192,039 for the 2011-12 school year, nearly an 8 percent difference from what was spent in 2010-11, even though the allocated amounts didn’t change. How was the $6,360 used that the SG allocated? That was student money after all, money that should have been used to fund clubs and registered student organizations (RSOs).
And why didn’t students know about the cuts? There may not have been an email issued, but the library did post the change on their internal blog on Aug. 9 that the change would take effect on Aug. 20. But the blog is deep within the library’s web page. OK — it’s really right there on the front. The truth is exactly what the library staff has gone on record as saying: Students just don’t utilize the services they offer.
There is an online interactive tool that anyone can access that will show usage of library computers and interested parties can see that in 2011-12 only 14 percent of the total student body logged in between Fridays and Sundays, with peak times being Tuesdays. This does not mean, however, that students didn’t come in with their own devices looking for a place to plug in and zone into their studies.
Therein lies the true issue. The library cannot just be a place with an outlet that students run to in search of escape from their roommates. It’s expensive to keep the library open. There must be staff there, both in the circulation desk and the computer help desk, the lights have to be on, and the facilities have to be functioning just as they would at 3 p.m. on a Tuesday.
After talking with Timmy Kutz, a senior majoring in education, it was discerned that maybe what the campus needs are more places for students to go and find quiet and electricity. They may not necessarily be looking for bound volumes and journals at midnight, but they are looking for a low noise, lit space to plug in their laptops and connect to the Internet. Even though the housing facilities have a few of those spaces, as Timmy puts it “you put four people in the spaces at the end of the halls and they are full. You put 10 people in the other rooms (like the ones in the freshmen dorms) and they are full, too.”
Therefore, perhaps the answer to the woes of both the university and the library is to create some kind of large space close to the living facilities, but maybe not connected directly to the dorms, where those looking for that quiet cranny can find an empty plug, a chair, and some silence. There may be no need to pay all of the extra money to keep a four-floor staffed library opened, even during finals week, if those who are looking for a place to work can find a place a bit more comfortable closer to their homes. Make the lights motion activated like the classrooms and have bare minimum furniture.
This is just one solution among many that have surely surfaced in the days since the closure came to light. The most important part of any plan moving forward is student involvement. Because in the end, without tuition dollars, the library, Student Government, even the university would have to make harder decisions about other doors that would need to be shut.