New fees to improve libraries, benefit students

By Vince Dixon

This school year, University students can spend extra time in libraries when pulling “all-nighters” or early morning studies thanks to the new student library fee passed by the Illinois Board of Trustees last March.

The fee requires a total of $200 each semester from new freshmen and graduate students. Much of the $3 million expected to accumulate from this fee will result in improved library facilities, new digital technology and extended hours.

Michael Andrechak, associate provost for budgets, said the goal is to better assist student library users who, in a Tuition Policy Advisory Committee survey last year, expressed disappointment in limited library hours and amenities.

“We have very hard-working students on campus, and they need far more access to libraries than we thought,” Andrechak said.

The extended hours affect the Undergraduate Library, now open three additional hours on Fridays and four additional hours on Saturdays, and Grainger Engineering Library, which is now open 24 hours, Monday-Thursday.

Though the fee does not apply to returning or upper-class transfer students, all members of the student body can take advantage of the new benefits and hours.

Laura Crull, senior in LAS, who at 6:30 a.m. used Grainger Library to study for a 9 a.m. exam on Wednesday, said the new hours are very effective.

“It’s helpful when you have early morning exams,” she said.

In addition to improving the hours of the Undergraduate and Grainger libraries, officials also want to use the extra funding to make physical improvements to campus libraries in order to focus on specific needs.

Their plan will rely on student feedback.

“We are looking into our regular feedback mechanisms from the students to improve these priorities,” said Scott Walter, associate University librarian, who added that student surveys and library evaluations will continue in the future.

One need also expressed in previous student surveys is an upgrade on the physical qualities of the Undergraduate Library, including electrical rewiring, mending leaky roofs and bringing in new furniture. In addition, information technology services including electronic media, laptop connection stations, online research tools and hands-on instruction spaces will also be focal points.

Students are satisfied with the initiative and appreciate the convenience the new library fee provides.

“It’s great,” says Sima Patel, sophomore in AHS, who has utilized Grainger’s 24-hour services by spending eight hours straight studying during early mornings and late nights. “You can stay here all night,” she said.

Sophomores and freshmen will pay the fee next year as well as each successive freshman class until the fee is paid by everyone. However, librarians say that paying the fee will not be the students’ only role in improving University library conditions. Student advice is highly needed, as it is the student body that the library enhancements will help.

“We’re really looking to fund projects that directly benefit students,” says Walker. “We believe the students can tell us a lot about how we can improve.”

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