Editorial: Make library services a funding priority

Staff Editorial

Everyone has their own wishlist for when the budget is restored. Some people list restoration of terminated Building Service Workers at the top of their budget wishlists. Others want cut academic programs or academic support services like the Testing Center back.

At The Daily Eastern News, we recognize that all services that were cut during the budget crisis, while nonessential in theory, were part of what made Eastern a lively and attractive educational option.

It is hard to play favorites with university services and features, but the editorial staff of The News agrees that restoration and improvement of library services is at the top of our budget restoration wishlists.

Why focus on the library when so many other services suffered from cutbacks and staff pruning in the past year? We firmly believe that the library is the central point around which all spokes of service revolve. It is the locus around which the extended academic lives of students, faculty, staff and locals alike cluster.

Obviously the library is a major boon to the student body. It offers expanded research opportunities and capabilities that students cannot access on their own. Booth Library hosts our academic web search offerings and supports those offerings with an extensive physical collection. Web research is convenient but is often a poor substitute for rare, old and specialty materials offered only in physical collections in libraries like ours.

Additionally, librarians like ours are skilled researchers and can aid students in finding materials for any sort of project or paper. Whether it is digging through piles of information, processing large amounts of information, citing strange materials or referring students to sources that cannot be found through solo search methods, the human resources at the library are the most versatile and effective research resources in the university.

Even for students whose work can be accomplished through unassisted research, the library is still a great resource for study and work environments and technology equipment. There are rooms and study spaces for all kinds of student: from the glass-and-metal computer rooms and sound-dampening group studies on the fourth floor to the scattered desks tucked away in the government documents room to the cozy chairs beside the windows and houseplants in Ballenger, almost every type of ideal study space is represented in Booth.

However, the features that really solidify library services as the most essential service to expand after budget restoration are the features that our library (and all others) offer to the communities they are built in. Our library is used by Charleston natives, often serving for them the same needs as the Charleston Carnegie Public Library but sometimes offering continuing education opportunities that are unavailable outside of the university library system.

Booth’s usefulness goes beyond the Charleston community; its existence strengthens the university library system. Libraries often trade materials based on student needs around the state. Because of the effectiveness of the Interlibrary Loan system, Booth Library does not need to carry every single book written about William Shakespeare. It merely has to ask Southern or Northern to lend its copy.

By extension, our library serves the world by improving the people in it. Is not the base function of a university also to improve the world both directly and through improving the individual?

Therefore, if Eastern wants to rededicate itself to the truest causes of higher education, library services should be first in line for restoration and expansion after the budget crisis ends.