Staff Editorial: A lack of critical budget information

The University is taking another step to improve everyone’s favorite campus eyesore – Gelman Library.

Two administrators were appointed last week to head the Future of Libraries Committee, which will determine how to best organize library space. The committee will examine how to potentially digitize Gelman’s book collection, which could potentially open up additional study space in the building.

And with the ensuing plan to revamp the first and second floors of the library beginning this summer, the future of the 39-year-old building looks promising for students.

But the community hasn’t been engaged or kept abreast of the building’s financial situation, which is critical to the future of the library’s renovations.

The University has appropriated $16 million for Gelman renovations on the first and second floors. Renovations to upper floors will have to come directly from Gelman’s operating budget or from additional fundraising efforts by the library or University, unless the University plans to direct more money towards Gelman.

The University provides a budget to cover administrative and operational costs, but Gelman is forced to solicit additional funding from external sources and voluntary gifts. The University is reluctant to fund a building like Gelman, because it is not a revenue-generating aspect of the institution.

Last year, The Hatchet reported that because the library’s budget had been stagnant for six years, it was forced to cut subscriptions to magazines, newspapers and journals. University Librarian Jack Siggins also noted that purchasing online subscriptions is a more costly endeavor than buying print ones.

Gelman spokeswoman Anne Ward first said that Siggins would not be available to contribute to this editorial but then said it was too early to tell how Gelman’s budget would impact renovations moving forward.

The only publically available information about Gelman’s finances is on the budget office’s website, but these details fail to give an in-depth account of its operating budget, as in the fiscal years 2011 and 2012, the University did not specifically name Gelman in its budget. University spokeswoman Candance Smith said that beyond what is available on the budget website, there is no additional public information.

Many students use the library more than any other facility on campus. Yet a lack of study space and chronic overcrowding will still plague students throughout the building, even after the first and second floors have been revamped.

The community deserves to know the financial situation of Gelman. The University cannot delay making the proposed changes from the Future of Libraries Committee. Failing to have a transparent budget inhibits the ability to move forward quickly.

The plan to put more money toward Gelman renovations is promising. But without information about the library’s budget, the community is left only to guess the extent of and timeline for these changes.

If it is clear that Gelman’s budget is lacking, then there will be increased urgency to shore up its finances.

And that can serve a huge benefit to the University and its projected renovations.

As the profile and prestige of the University continues to rise, students need a library to match the high standard of the institution within a reasonable time frame.

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