On campus

Volpe Library Ranked Last Among State in Library Expenditures

The roads outside of the Volpe library are currently under construction. photo by Luke Hayslette.

Tech is ranked last among the state in library expenditures according to the recent budget advisory committee meeting shared by Dr. Lori Maxwell, president of the faculty senate. 

This issue raised questions for the campus community about what academic resources are deemed necessary for funding from the university.

Dean of library learning and assistance, Dr. Douglas Bates, discussed the ranking of library expenditures as an issue of what the campus public deems to be adequate and necessary. With advancements in technology and other culminating factors affecting research methods, students have shifted from printed resources to online sources. 

“I suspect students can probably do a large majority of their work without ever looking at a library resource. Think of all the information that is available on the web, even on Google Scholar where you can access peer-reviewed research,” Bates stated.

“Our budget in terms of library materials: books, journals, stuff that students and faculty use to get information is right now– thanks to the work and effort of the provost who’s done a great job helping us increase the budget in the last year– currently sitting at $710,000,” Bates shared.

“Now compared to say the University of Memphis or MTSU, they’re at a $3.5 to $4 million range and we’re at $710,000. Tennessee Tech has never had more than $1.2 million. So, we’ve never had a very high library budget. It’s less than we’ve had before, less than others, but we’ve always been near the bottom,” Bates shared.

Bates explained the university has to create a certain baseline and then use alternate means to meet individual needs because with a $1.2 million budget, all it can do is provide the basics.

 “So what has to happen in my opinion, is the university has to decide what is adequate… what is necessary. And that is a difficult thing for me and my colleagues in the library, because we don’t use it. It’s not for us, it’s for somebody else. Number one, we can only spend the money that’s given to us. Number two, the people that use it have to decide how much is enough. I think it’s as simple as that,” Bates said.

Because there are gradations in budgetary spending, Bates claimed students and faculty have to define what is adequate for the university. 

“So if you look at the numbers, which I have done in some detail, all across the country the number of books checked out has declined by about 80% in the last ten years. So you ask yourself the question, ‘With $500,000, why should I spend $100,000 to continue to buy books?’ At what point is that $100,000 going into something that over time is going to be less and less used?”

It has become a challenge to grant more research materials when the general public has deemed them invaluable. 

Bates conducted a study a couple years ago looking at the number of books checked out during any one semester and found on average one person checked out four books. He came to the conclusion based on the number of books checked out [divided by the average number of books per person] per one semester 750 students had checked out a library book out of a population of 10,000. 

This research posed the question for Bates on how much money must be spent on a resource serving only 750-800 students per semester.

Junior, Madelyn Huddleston, shared her opinion on the Volpe library: “I love our university’s library. I think they have an amazing collection of books that actually span a large spectrum of topics. Most of the books that I have checked out are extremely old though. I think if Tech focused on updating their resources, students would be more inclined to seek them out for help with research papers and the like.” 

Huddleston continued, “They also need to work on advertising their books. I’m an avid book reader, but I never thought to look through the school’s collection until my junior year. It also wouldn’t hurt if they added more fiction books, as much of their collection pertains to research and essays. I think the library would be able to pull a larger audience due to fiction’s recent surge in popularity caused by social media.” 

Perhaps better advertisement from the university would help students discover more of the library’s resources as well as foster more concern about expenditures.