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NDSU officials discuss fee hike to help library

North Dakota State University's library is not on par with other universities, and officials there want to change that. Library officials met with NDSU's student government this week to discuss increasing the library fee as one way to improve the...

Graphic: Library budget

North Dakota State University's library is not on par with other universities, and officials there want to change that.

Library officials met with NDSU's student government this week to discuss increasing the library fee as one way to improve the deficiencies.

NDSU ranks last when compared to similar universities in the number of students visiting the library and the number of books students check out, Mark England, director of information services, told students.

"I don't think it's because our students are illiterate," England said. "I think it's because we have a poor library and people don't find it useful to go there."

NDSU's library has not kept up with the university's growing enrollment and increased research emphasis, said Jim Council, dean of libraries.

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The university's focus on science requires NDSU to buy a lot of journal subscriptions, which become more and more expensive every year, he said.

"What's happened for years is we have cannibalized the rest of our materials budget in order to maintain our journals and databases," Council said.

The current library building also prevents NDSU's collection from expanding.

Many of the academic journals are stored in an old warehouse that is not climate-controlled, Council said.

Discussions are ongoing about constructing a new library large enough to house all collections.

Keeping pace

Academic libraries have been struggling to keep up with rising prices of journals, Council said. Some years publishers have raised prices by 10 percent or more.

"This is not a crisis that's just affecting us," he said. "This affects everybody."

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The book budget at Minnesota State University Moorhead has decreased about $24,000 in the past four years for the same reason, said Brittney Goodman, associate vice president for instructional resources.

"They (journals) go up exponentially every year," Goodman said. "You try to balance the need for those materials with the need for the book collection."

At NDSU, raising the student library fee could restore money to the book budget, Council said.

In 2004, NDSU students began paying a library fee of 83 cents a credit. That's about $10 a semester for a full-time student, which generates $210,000 a year for the library.

NDSU's student government is gathering student input on the possibility of a fee increase, said Josh Reimnitz, student body president.

It could be put to a student vote in April.

Reimnitz thinks a small fee increase, such as doubling it to $20 a semester, would be agreeable to most students.

A larger increase to support a new library building may be more questionable, Reimnitz said, especially to students who would graduate before it was completed.

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New library building

NDSU's library was built in the 1950s, with an expansion added in the 1970s that was supposed to have a design life of 15 years, Council said.

"Really, a new library building is long overdue," he said.

NDSU hired architecture firm Meyer Scherer & Rockcastle - the same firm that designed the new downtown Fargo Public Library now under construction - to do a feasibility study on a new library.

The study recommends a facility more than twice the size of the current library that would be large enough to house all of NDSU's academic collections and the Institute for Regional Studies.

The estimated cost of a new library, if construction began in 2009, is $68 million.

"Realistically, we probably couldn't do something that grand," Council said.

A campus master plan that is due out this summer also will address the need for a new library.

Funding a library would have to come from a variety of sources, including state appropriations, internal dollars, student fees and private donations, Council said.

"There are many mouths to feed on campus," Council said. "You can't take care of everybody, but right now we're becoming a bit of a squeaky wheel, because we feel like we have some real needs."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590

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