Justin Peligri: A crucial, yet underfunded, campus staple

When my younger brother came to visit last weekend, I made sure to point out Gelman Library on our travels through campus. After all, at a research university like GW, the main library is a campus fixture.

Or, at least, it should be.

But for a decade, Gelman has been vastly underfunded. The library’s annual $4 million budget hasn’t been sufficient to cover the costs of new collections and librarians’ salaries, according to blistering report from March.

Some good news came this week: As costs rise for academic collections, the administration has tepidly pledged to increase the librarian’s annual budget.

Of course, recently hired head librarian Geneva Henry said she knows her tall order for more funding likely won’t be delivered. “My numbers will be big, and I know we’ll be told that’s probably too much, but no, I will not go in asking for small or even maybe realistic numbers,” Henry told The Hatchet.

The renovations to Gelman’s second floor have successfully rehabilitated the library’s reputation on campus: Increasingly, students see the library as a place to meet for group projects, print out assignments and stop by between classes to cram for midterms.

But aesthetic improvements to just one of the library’s seven floors just won’t cut it – especially in an era of transformation for GW, when administrators hope to “embrace an educational vision
that values both basic and applied research,” according to the ten-year strategic plan, released in February.

The University likes to tout its central location in the nation’s capital as a selling point. But that doesn’t mean it should be acceptable to assume that if students need access to a niche research collection or want a quality studying experience, they’ll travel to the Library of Congress.

The writer, a junior majoring in political communication, is The Hatchet’s opinions editor.

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