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Op-Ed by UW Dean of Libraries Maggie Farrell

November 6, 2009
Maggie Farrell

The discussion about tuition increases at the University of Wyoming has focused in part on the need to provide additional funding for our libraries. As the UW dean of Libraries, I can offer some perspectives on the role our libraries play for the university and in the state.

Clearly, great faculty and great students are the cornerstone of an outstanding university. They both need the right tools to ensure success. Libraries are essential to land-grant research universities like UW. Students and faculty need a variety of journals, scholarly books, and other media for a quality educational experience.

The array of materials we need are unique given the curriculum for our students and our strong focus on providing opportunities for undergraduate research. The deficiencies in our collections were noted in the2008 Graduate and Professional Student Survey in which graduate students were pleased with library services but cited the lack of research materials for their successful completion of coursework. Moreover, UW faculty members also require current information for their research regarding issues important to Wyoming - carbon capture, enhanced oil recovery, brucellosis, and the health of our residents to name but a few. Without them, our current faculty is at a disadvantage in competing for research support, and UW is at a disadvantage in recruiting faculty.

Today, library materials of all kinds are available in electronic form, but they aren't free. The costs of journals, books, and research information have skyrocketed even when accessed electronically. Just as UW has spent the last several years investing in salaries to ensure we can recruit and retain the best faculty and staff, UW is now planning to invest in our libraries to ensure we can compete in this critical component of a top-quality education.

But UW is responsible to ensure that additional financial resources are used effectively to maximize the benefit to our students, faculty, and also Wyoming residents. Our libraries aren't used only by faculty and students in Laramie and in other Wyoming communities through our outreach programs. People across Wyoming use our resources every day, directly and in collaboration with other Wyoming libraries. It's a team effort.

We're committed to leveraging the financial resources we receive by striving for membership in organizations of university libraries. Membership helps unlock the door to far more resources for our students and faculty than UW could ever afford on its own. UW set its sights on membership in the Greater Western Library Alliance, a group of western research universities that we consider our colleagues. While it does require a substantial investment to successfully become a member, the pay off in access to materials is well worth it. Tuition dollars dedicated to UW libraries will ensure our students receive the education that the people of Wyoming expect and require for a successful Wyoming future.

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