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Limited funding for Miami libraries shows flat is not the new up

The following piece, written by the editorial editors, reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.

Tour season is in full swing right now, as throngs of Miami hopefuls march about the campus behind their omniscient tour guides each hour. Here's the romantic Upham Arch, here's Slant Walk, there's the ever-expanding population of squirrels, oh, and here's King Library -- let's have a look inside.

Being the truthful students Miami should be proud of, the tour guides enter King's lobby and tell their groups about all it has to offer: an appreciated 24-hour service, a flourishing cafe in the basement, printing and scanning access, rentable MacBooks, iPhone and MacBook chargers, digital cameras and recording devices and, oh, books. Them, too.

The tour guides aren't so wrong to overlook the library's fundamental purpose, not after the Dean of Miami Libraries Jerome Conley reported in his Board of Trustees Academic/Student Affairs Committee presentation last Thursday that students checked out more computers and digital equipment than books. Libraries as a holding place for books might be an antiquated notion, something that should be amended, if not eradicated altogether, in this technological age. Miami's administration seems to agree, as evinced by the vacating of the former Brill Science Library in Hughes Hall, which had served as a storage space for microfilm, microfiche and other limited-use periodicals and records, this past summer.

More substantial evidence lies within the university's budget, which has not accounted for the inflated prices of scholarly journals and, consequently, has left the libraries with less and less financial flexibility, or "book-buying" power. Whereas the budget for Miami's libraries, $4.7 million, has remained the same since 2010, the cost of periodicals and academic journals has increased by about 6 percent per year over that same period.

In 2010, Miami Libraries spent close to $488,000 on book and book related purchases, while last year they only spent $210,000. The "approval plan" budget for this year is zero.

It is understandable that the budget is tight when it comes to many aspects of the university's costs. Further, it is impossible to control certain factors such as inflation, and this factor has certainly been a main component of the current predicament. However, the fact remains that education is the primary purpose of the institution of this university (despite what some athletic department budgets will have you understand). Books are still a central component to this purpose, even in the digital age. Therefore, a greater effort must be made to retain the same level of purchasing power for physical books that we have had in the past.

Not every student may see the benefit to keeping books around, but for those in humanities fields, it is a necessity. History, art, English and other likewise majors all require a large resource pool of literature, text and databases at their disposal, a pool that cannot be displaced by the web. In a world that is increasingly reliant on the Internet, higher education should be one of the havens for books to continue to have a use and a home. That is simply why we have colleges and libraries in the first place.

President Hodge made sure that the "Miami Experience" was emphasized in order to attract students. To keep those students and to provide them with the education and resources that Miami is so well-known for, we hope that in this new year and under new leadership, Miami will start to emphasize the undergraduate education again. Library funding (or lack thereof) is a direct reflection of what the University values as most important to its students. We did not apply to Miami because we heard it had a nice student center. We applied here because we want a legitimate degree to help us get a job.

David Creamer, the vice president of finance at Miami, says that he thinks the Board of Trustees will "probably make some improvement" in the library budget. He cites concerns over large cost increases in the future as his and the Board's only stopping point. To this, we say: cut costs elsewhere. A probable improvement is not good enough. Students need the resources libraries provide as much as libraries need the money that will help them thrive. Flat, we at The Miami Student all agree, is not the new up.

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