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Task Force to Investigate Fees to Benefit the Library

Report, November 17, 2004



At the April 20, 2004 faculty meeting, a motion to investigate the feasibility and strategies for fees to benefit the Library’s budget passed by voice vote.  The motion emerged from the discussion generated by Al Kagan’s draft resolution calling for a library fee for students.  The resolution text follows:


Whereas the University Library budget crisis is intensifying,

And whereas many universities charge library fees to all students,

Resolved that the University Library faculty advocates the implementation of a library fee for all students to help fund all functions of the University Library.

And resolved that this resolution be sent to all deans, center and program directors, as well as the Senate Committee on the Library and the Chancellor and Provost.


Paula Kaufman appointed the task force, consisting of Al Kagan (chair), Pat Allen, Becky Smith, Sue Searing, and Rod Allen (ex officio).  The charge to the task force was:


The Task Force is charged with investigating the range of potential options for implementing a library fee.  Such options include, but are not limited to, a fee that is assessed with tuition (e.g. Penn State’s IT fee that includes library fee); a fee that is added to differential tuitions; or an addition to the Student Activities fee.  For each option please provide information about advantages and disadvantages.  Experiences with similar fees at peer institutions should be used to inform your work.


The task force was instructed to prepare its report in time for consideration at the November 2004 faculty meeting.



Work Method


The task force met face-to-face four times.  In between meetings, we gathered information about library fees at other academic libraries and strove to understand the processes and politics required to institute a new student fee at UIUC.


To identify institutions with student library fees, we conducted a focused search of the professional literature in library science and higher education and more wide-ranging searches of the internet.  We used email and the telephone to gather details from colleagues elsewhere, including polling CIC libraries regarding student fees.  We also identified the top 30 public university libraries in ARL (as ranked by ARL’s composite index, not counting UIUC), and explored their campus websites to determine student tuition and fee structures.





Most of our peer institutions do not have student library fees.  Notable exceptions are the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M.  (Many smaller academic libraries in Texas likewise assess a student library fee.)  The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is unique in assessing a student library fee that contributes to an endowment for the library.  None of the CIC campuses have a library fee, but at least four of them collect an IT fee.  Of these, Penn State and Michigan State University report that the library receives funding from the IT fee, but not a specified recurring amount.  For example, MSU reported that money from its IT fee is “bundled in with our regular allocation and is not driven by a particular formula.”  Indiana University reported that the library benefits indirectly, because the IT fee funds equipment in the Information Commons, a partnership project of the library and campus computing services. 


Where fees do exist, they vary widely in amount and type, from a low of $2.50 per semester (UNC’s library endowment fee) to a high of $200.00 per semester (Indiana University’s IT fee).    Fees are variously assessed by semester, by academic year, or by credit hour.  On some campuses, fees are pro-rated for part-time students or distance education students; on others they are not.  On some campuses, students in certain technology-intensive academic programs are charged differential IT fees.   We also noted that some universities have a complex fee structure, with many small fees earmarked for specific purposes, while others fold many costs into a general “student support fee” or “ matriculation fee.”  The University of Texas may be leading the way toward less complex fee structures; its pilot “flat tuition” program consolidates all mandatory fees into one amount in 2004-05. 


We have attached two charts showing library and IT fees at ten peer institutions, and the fee status at the top thirty ARL libraries at public institutions (only 4 of the 30 have fees). We found that in general, IT fees are much higher than library fees at our peer institutions.  IT fees average $187 while library fees average $33 per semester.  (For institutions charging fees by credit hour, computations were made assuming an average of 12 credit hours per semester.)  The overall average fee was $67 per semester. 


Published descriptions of student library and IT fees, as well as conversations with colleagues at other libraries, highlight the close linkage between student fees and library services targeted to undergraduate users.  For example, several libraries use money generated by fees to support 24/7 operations.  Statements that fees support electronic collections and access are common: 


“This fee supports library-staffing, acquisitions of books and documents, subscriptions to scholarly journals and traditional as well as electronic access to books and journals. The fee will ensure that the library services will continue to increase without cutting access to electronic journals, acquisitions, hour of operation and other services.”  (U. of Oklahoma)


“The library fee...defrays the cost of purchasing library materials, expanding on-line information resources, and improving library hours and other services for students.”  (U. of Texas at Austin)


The director at West Virginia University stated that the library’s electronic collections are almost entirely supported by student fees, which generate nearly a million dollars annually.  The director of public services at UNC noted that the library’s student advisory group must approve the use of the student library endowment earnings; the library is careful to use the money for services important to students.  Accountability is an important factor in gaining student buy-in for library fees.


Most campuses with library or IT fees have only had them in place for a few years.    Therefore, it is difficult to judge whether the existence of such fees prompts any noticeable diminution of funding from other sources. 



The Task Force discussed the advantages and disadvantages of the following options:
1. Designated Library Endowment Fee
2. Designated Library Fee
        2a. General Fee
        2b. Student Activity Fee
3. Library Fee Embedded in an Information Technology Fee
4. Library Fee Embedded in a General Fee
5. Library Fee Embedded in Tuition
6. No fee
Option 1: Designated Library Endowment Fee. 
• The model is a small fee established at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
• Advantages: Endowment grows over time, facilitates planning for the future, timely response to current UIUC development efforts, could be relatively inexpensive.
• Disadvantages: Lack of immediate impact, income dependent on investment strategy, income could vary widely due to market swings, complicated to explain to students.
Option 2: Designated Library Fee. 
•2a:  General University Fee
•2b: Student Activity Fee
• Advantages: Immediate income, establishes ongoing stable funding mechanism, probably tied to support of high-profile student service issues, increases visibility and good will toward Library.
• Disadvantages: Restricts use of designated income to undergraduate concerns, increased Library accountability and record-keeping, probably not tied to inflation, complicated implementation process including large-scale lobbying.
Option 3: Library Fee Embedded in an Information Technology Fee
• In this model, the Library might or might not get a specified percentage of the total fee.
• Advantages: Easier to make the case because of widespread support for enhanced technology.
• Disadvantages: Need for continuous justification and lobbying, income received might vary widely depending on campus decisions.
Option 4: Library Fee Embedded in a General Fee.
• In this model, the Library might or might not get a specified percentage of the total fee. The current General Fee covers many activities including many campus service units excluding the University Library.  There is also a Service Fee that covers many campus service units excluding the University Library.
• Advantages: No new restrictions on how money is spent, less complicated approval process.
• Disadvantages: Need for continuous justification and lobbying, income received might vary widely depending on campus decisions.
Option 5: Library Fee Embedded in Tuition.
• In this model, the Library might or might not get a specified percentage of the total tuition.
• Advantages: No new restrictions on how money is spent, less complicated approval process, could increase with tuition, provides stable funding source.
• Disadvantages: Political pressure against raising tuition, more negative public perception, and might just replace funds already received from tuition.
Option 6: No Fee.
• Advantages: Already have good University administrative support, no risk in alienating University Administration or students, no risk in losing our recent special funding, no new restrictions on how money is spent.
• Disadvantages: Passive acceptance of current situation, passive acceptance of current morale situation, risk that future funding might be non-recurring, risk that University and State funding may decline in the future, may be propitious time for new funding initiatives.
Implementation Procedures
• Here are the formal procedures, but the Library would obviously need to do much informal lobbying before submitting a formal proposal.
Designated General Fees: Options 1, 2a, 3 and 4.
Proposal goes to the Interim Chancellor and to the Interim Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.  If approved, proposal goes to Board of Trustees.
Designated Library Student Activities Fee: Option 2b.
Proposal goes to the Student Service Fee Advisory Committee, if approved then to the Interim Provost, if approved then to the President and President’s Council, if approved then to a student referendum, if approved then to the IBHE, if approved then to the Board of Trustees.
Library Fee Embedded in Tuition: Option 5.
Proposal goes first to the Interim Provost, if approved it goes to the Student Tuition Policy Advisory Committee, if approved then to the VP for Academic Affairs, if approved then to the Board of Trustees.  Note that under the new tuition system, this fee would start with a freshman class (perhaps fall 2006), and work its way up until all four classes are covered.
The Task Force to Investigate Fees to Benefit the Library unanimously recommends further exploration of implementing a library fee with the new University Administration. Having examined the advantages and disadvantages, we think that Option 5, a library fee embedded in, and as a fixed percentage of tuition, shows the most promise. Once implemented, it would provide a stable income source, would automatically increase along with tuition, and would not further restrict how we allocate our funds.  As opposed to any type of fee, it would not be listed on student bills, and therefore likely would not be a continuous topic of discussion.



Al Kagan, Chair

Pat Allen

Sue Searing

Becky Smith

Rod Allen, ex officio