Forum: Printing fee necessary to cover costs

“How else can GW squeeze a few more dollars from students’ pockets?” This question was printed in The Hatchet on Monday, in reference to a printing fee that is being considered at the Gelman Library. While I can understand opposition to the printing fee, I do not agree with the rationale presented in the editorial.

The library has been considering the printing fee from the perspective of library resources. The electronic journal articles and indexes, which used to be acquired in paper form, are now supplied in electronic form. Traditionally, costs for photocopying articles or sections of indexes for personal retention were kept low, and the idea was that the cost of consumables like paper and toner should be the responsibility of the individual. With movement into the electronic delivery of these resources that were formerly in print, a shift occurred from photocopying to printing, resulting in increased demand for printing. The technology has also improved to supply the demand for quality printed materials.

The shift from photocopying to printing has a large effect on the size of the library’s printing budget, a problem not unique to GW. Many universities have been requiring a printing fee for research materials. In a 1999 Association of Research Libraries survey, just over 60 percent of the membership already charged for printing, and an additional 7 percent planned to implement fees in the future. In the local area, three of the WRLC libraries that share our ALADIN system already charge for printing.

The Gelman Library has not yet implemented a printing fee because we want to make sure the system would work smoothly for students. For the last two years, the library has been working with GWorld, the Center for Academic Technologies, the Himmelfarb Health Sciences Library, and the Burns Law Library so the photocopying and printing system would be uniform across campus.

In the meantime, the library is losing money. If the consumables and hardware costs are combined, the total is approximately $55,000 a year, plus additional staffing costs are about $45,000 a year. On average, a book costs about $50 and journals cost approximately $225 a title. According to these estimates, the library could purchase 1,100 books or 245 journal titles for the cost of the consumables and hardware alone.

The library has learned from GW students that taking classes at our university would become increasingly expensive if a printing fee was implemented. Many professors are taking advantage of Prometheus, which is a tool used to distribute computer files and Web links to the students. While the intent of the program was genuinely advantageous, students are now required to retrieve and print various documents, which were previously photocopied by the professor and distributed to the class. While I currently work at the library, I am also a student and can fully understand the effect a printing fee would have on the cost of attending school here.

Taking the information presented above into consideration, however, I am more concerned about the detrimental effect printing costs are having on the extent of our library’s resources. The effect printing fees will have on students continues to be a main concern of the library, and we will negotiate with students to come up with a solution that is beneficial for everyone. All students are invited to attend Gelman Liaison Student Advisory Board meetings and to also submit suggestions and comments concerning the issue to the online suggestion box located on the library’s Web page. The library and I are looking forward to hearing your ideas.

-The writer, a senior majoring in psychology, is Gelman Library student liaison.

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