Student engagement needed on library expansion proposals

Evan Watson/The News
Evan Watson/The News

Evan Watson/The News

If you were a student during the Spring 2012 semester, you might remember a certain controversy on campus involving plans by the University to construct a new library. Some of you may even remember visiting Waterfield Library and noticing fancy charts in the lobby about what the proposed library was going to look like, why it was going to be built and when we could expect to see it on campus.

Things looked to be going smoothly until it was announced that students would be paying a $90 fee in order to facilitate the construction of the $69 million project.

Several angry editorials (which you can still read at TheNews.org) and a groundswell of opposition from students to the proposed library later, the Board of Regents ultimately decided to put a hold on the project. Now, a year and a half later, the Board of Regents will revisit the thorny issue of library expansion on campus at its Dec. 5 meeting.

The good news? Building a brand new library from scratch and charging students to do it is out. One of the proposals the board will consider is the addition of an annex to Waterfield Library, which would connect to the library and be built where Woods Hall now stands.

This proposal is estimated at $19 million, though the board will also consider an additional $2-3 million to revamp Waterfield Library, which has not undergone major renovations since 1978, when it became a library, it had previously been used as a student center not unlike the Curris Center today.

There are no proposals to charge students a fee to renovate Waterfield or add an annex, which the University considers a long-term fix to the problem of Waterfield’s decaying, outmoded infrastructure.

We want to voice our cautious support for this endeavor.

If the problems at the library are bad enough to warrant such major renovations, and if students aren’t going to be the ones bearing the brunt of costs associated with this project, we have few problems acting as an advocate for the revamping and expansion of Waterfield Library.

We’ve all been in Waterfield at least once at our time here at Murray State (or at least, we hope so!) and we all know what it’s like between classes.

The computers are almost always full, many a time during finals week there won’t be enough laptops to check out or a table for quiet study. What’s $19 million if it means constant access to computers in the library, open tables and laptops always available for checkout? This one’s a no-brainer. We need more space at Waterfield Library – for students, for books and for computers alike.

We are, however, cautious in expressing our support for this project. Are we to expect the University to keep to a commitment not to charge students to fund the library expansion project?

We need to see some numbers before we’re ready to fully commit to supporting this project. How is the University going to pay for library expansion if not by asking the students? Will an invisible fee be added to parking permits or tuition? Will the University dip into its carry-forward funds to pay for this project?

Again, we understand the reasons for expansion and would like to see it – but not without first seeing how it’s going to be paid for and a guarantee that it won’t be done on the backs of students.

As always, students must keep one eye focused on their studies and the other focused on the goings-on at Murray State and just what the folks on the Board of Regents and in the President’s Office are up to.

Academics isn’t everything – to be a well-rounded student, a well-rounded person, one must pay attention to the powers that be and hold them accountable when necessary.

We have to stay engaged and give our representatives the necessary feedback on these and other projects that may effect students, for them to make the right decisions. We owe it to ourselves to make sure that if this is done, it is done right.