New printing charge to take effect

GW library and technology officials said all systems are in place to implement a campus-wide printing fee announced last month. The 7-cent per-page fee went into effect in Center for Academic Technologies labs last week and is scheduled to start in library computer labs Sept. 3.

Beginning the first day of classes, students in all University computer labs will be asked to enter their name when they approve a print job from a computer. A printer number will appear on the monitor.

Students can then slide their GWorld cards at the printing station and see a list of print jobs sent to the printer. When they find their specific job, they can click on it, see the price and release the job, allowing it to print immediately.

Students can still print Aladin book searches free of charge, but articles and Web sites will be subject to the fee, Mayer said.

The new system, called GW Prints, is an agreement between Gelman library, the Law School and Medical Center libraries and CATs labs to charge 7 cents per-side for printing.

University Librarian Jack Siggins said the library had “no choice” but to implement the fee to prevent continually increasing waste and machines in need of constant repair.

He said the library spent about $48,000 last year on paper and toner. Siggins said even though Gelman was allocated about $10 million last year, the costs of free printing and its affects on hardware were too much for the library. He said the library will replace eight printers next week that are on the verge of burning out after one year in use. The normal life span for the printers is three to five years.

Siggins also said Gelman failed to receive a budget increase this year, putting the library in a tight financial situation.

“The decision to charge for printing was never a matter of if, but a matter of when,” Siggins said.

He said three years of negotiations between the GW Prints members as well as student groups, including the Student Association, determined that a fee would be the best way to cut down on waste and cost.

CATs, which runs the computer labs in the Marvin Center, Academic Center and Gelman Library basements instituted a 1,250 page printing cap last December but found the cap did not save enough money.

William Mayer, who oversees technology for Gelman libraries, said a cap would not bring the wanted changes and that all departments in the University had to go to the same system to ensure success. Mayer said a printing fee instituted at the Jacob Burns Law Library three years ago caused law students to come to Gelman for free printing.

“We knew the system had to be uniform, otherwise somebody would be hit hard,” he said. Mayer said the new system cost the library more than $75,000.

He said the campus-wide system simplifies printing for students, and GW is joining the majority of universities by deciding to charge for printing. American and George Mason Universities, along with recent addition Georgetown University, are among the schools in the D.C. library consortium charging students for printing.

He said GW did not want to “gouge” students and decided to charge 7 cents instead of the 10 cents most schools charge. However, Mayer could only guarantee the 7-cent fee for the upcoming school year and could not say whether it would rise for the 2003-04 academic year.

Mayer noted that the fee will most likely not come close to covering costs this year but go toward service and equipment.

Printing in residence hall computer labs is still free, Mayer said. Resnet, which oversees technology in residence halls, is not currently part of GW Prints but Mayer said he foresees them instituting a charge this semester.

Siggins and Mayer said they understand student anger over the fee, but note that it should not be directed toward the library because there was no alternative for them, they said.

Siggins said some universities charge a mandatory technology fee, which could cover printing costs. But, he said, GW has refused to take up his suggestion that the $50 voluntary library fee be made mandatory. Siggins said only about 25 percent of students pay the voluntary fee printed on each student’s tuition bill. The library took in a little more than $500,000 from the fee last year.

“We never want to be in a situation where we are nickel and diming students but there was no alternative to the change,” he said.

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