There has been a new addition to the library, and it has nothing to do with books. Throughout the library’s computer center, signs inform students their printing habits are being monitored, and that the cost of printing pages off library computers comes directly from the library budget.
At a time when the number of free services dwindles, administrators and library staff are hoping to keep free printing at Mills College by informing students of the problems that arise from its excessive use.
“The monitoring is not to be punitive,” said IT Senior Director Bruce McCreary. “We monitored to determine if printing went up incrementally across the board.”
What they found was that 5-10% of students were printing vastly more than others, indicating that “they were printing improperly,” McCreary said. He explained that printing for class is ok, but printing non-school related items for personal use is not. They also found some students were leaving extra copies in the printers.
“I don’t want people to feel they are being monitored…I want people to use common sense,”said Janice Braun, Associate Library Director and Special Collections Librarian. She added that people should only print smaller, essential items from library computers.
Now, the administration is more concerned with informing students of the impact of mass printing, and directing students to better printing resources. In the library, as in many smaller departments, printing comes directly from the department budget.
“The more printing there is, the less we are able to do with other things…We don’t know yet what the budgets will be, but they will be extremely impacted,” said Michael Beller, Head of Reference & Access Services Librarian.
So far, the library has not run out of funds, but it is becoming more difficult to plan for future spending.
“It’s not that we haven’t been able to get one thing over the other, but [printing costs] have impacted the budget… We do go over the supply budget. We don’t get extra money for that,” Braun said.
The main goal so far has been to redirect bulk, non-academic printing away from those smaller printing centers in order to keep printing free at Mills College.
“If you are printing a large quantity, the library is not the place to do it,” McCreary said.
Instead, he is directing students looking to print in bulk to places like the Mail and Copy Center. Unlike smaller departments, such as the library, the Mail and Copy Center has large equipment ideal for mass printing. Copies there cost 15 cents per sheet for black and white prints and 35 cents for color.
Across the College, double-sided printing, recycled paper, and lower ink settings on all printers were put in place over the years to combat the steady rise in printing since electronic reserves have become the norm in most classes.
Without free library printing, Tatiana Borda, a second year Early Childhood General and Special Education graduate student, would not print out many of her assigned readings.
“I probably would be reading off line a lot,” Borda said. “I’m a lot quicker at reading things I can hold… It’s easier on my eyes.”
Because of the College’s small size and lack of centralized printing system, putting in a pay-for-print system “is not economically feasible… Putting in the system would cost more than they would get back,” McCreary said.
In particular, the library sees free and easy printing as an important component in academic research.
“The library is useful…being able to provide printing allows people to do their research, write their papers, under one roof,” Beller said.
These measures all work towards to one goal: to keep printing free through the College.
“We don’t want pay-for-print. I’m going to fight it tooth for nail,” McCreary said.