“A library is not a luxury, but a necessity of life.”

– Henry Ward Beecher

The university is aiming for greatness, throwing tens of millions into new construction in both academic and athletic abilities. But in the great drive forward, startlingly important pieces are being left behind. Our university library system, already ranked far below our peer universities, is set for serious financial cuts.

University library council chairman Jim Klumpp estimated in a July 16 letter to the University Senate that a $600,000 gap exists between the library system’s needs and budgeted funds. The effects are being felt. Thousands of journal titles are being cut. Book purchases are being scaled back. This is just pouring salt on the wounds of an already poorly funded system.

Worse, university administration is failing to acknowledge the seriousness of this concern. A survey by the Association of Research Libraries ranked Maryland 61st in material expenditures in 2005, behind our peer schools, which were all ranked in the top 25. But when asked about the situation, university Provost Bill Destler sidestepped the issue by commenting on how the survey may be misleading because it fails to anticipate the evolution of libraries to centers stocking less books on hand.

While it would be nice to believe that the university is truly being a forward-thinking institution doing more for less, it’s clear this is not the case. The solid fact is that there will simply be less academic resources for faculty and students. And in an institution whose mission is academic enlightenment, this is, to say the least, a significant concern.

The university is seeking to position itself as an up-and-comer capable of attracting the best talent. But what does it say to potential faculty and students if the library system cannot even be funded at minimal levels? Gleaming buildings and athletic fields aren’t enough – the university must first concentrate on providing a solid academic core.

Our view: University administration must consider funding the library system a basic priority and raise its budget to levels competitive with our peer institutions.