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February 22, 2024

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Spring Housing Guide

Funding for Jerome Library isn’t priority

With a leaky, aging building, increasingly expensive research materials and a growing student body to serve, Jerome Library could use some cash.

They aren’t alone. Other Ohio colleges are renovating their libraries and finding new ways to pay for it.

While most college libraries in Ohio were first built with state money, recent cuts to higher education funding have left schools looking to private donations to maintain or renovate those buildings.

Take Ohio State University for example. Their $100 million library renovation project is one of the most ambitious in the nation, aiming to finish improvements to a nearly 100-year-old building before 2009. Administrators there have made the library renovations their top fundraising priority, according to Gay Jackson, director of the Library Campaign for OSU.

“We have some fabulous facilities at the [Ohio State] University, and people want the library to be one of them,” Jackson said. “Our main library has just been not renovated in many years, and it’s desperately in need of renovations, and I think that people respond to that need.”

By comparison, BGSU doesn’t make their libraries as high a priority as OSU makes their own.

After a feasibility study estimated BGSU’s main library needed $15 million in renovations four years ago, the project was not ranked a priority. Now, a new feasibility study to reevaluate the old estimate is underway and is expected to be released this summer, said Bob Waddle of Capital Planning.

With $30 million of the OSU library project coming from fundraising, Jackson is busy asking for private donations from alumni, businesses, and charitable foundations.

“We target people who love the [Ohio State] University and there are many, many of them in Ohio,” Jackson said. “People recognize the importance of libraries across a wide gamut of interests. And so we approach a variety of people.”

Ohio State’s library system clearly dwarfs BGSU’s, with 20 libraries at the main campus, including medical, law, and business libraries.

“You can’t really compare yourself with something [Ohio State] University is trying to do,” she said.

While OSU has a long, successful record of funding its libraries’ renovations, BGSU has not. Neither has Kent State University.

“We don’t have a strong history of raising money from the library,” said Barbara Schloman, assistant dean of libraries at KSU. “So we have more of an effort going on right now.”

But KSU library officials hope that the recent hiring of a new fundraiser will turn that around.

In December, Diane Ruppelt was hired as director of constituent development for the Honors College and Libraries at KSU. Her job is to contact past donors and reach out to potential donors.

No comparable position – a development officer dedicated to raising money for the library – exists at BGSU. Julie Pontasch, who is the development office’s liaison to Jerome Library, acknowledged that her office doesn’t actively seek donations for the library.

The libraries at KSU and Jerome Library have similar structural problems. KSU’s main library needs new plumbing, elevators, and the windows need attention, Schloman said.

“The plumbing is just old, and the valves. And water is just such a threat in a library. My gosh. You just don’t want to see that. It’d just be disastrous,” Schloman said, adding that necessary plumbing replacement will cost millions.

Like Jerome Library on campus, KSU’s library has had water leak problems as well. Schloman said she remembers a few years ago, when a plumbing problem sent clean water running down the stairwell like a waterfall.

Until recently, such work wasn’t on capital planning lists. Now, these improvements are slated to happen in the next four to six years, she said.

“I’m sure it’s a dilemma for [administrators] to know how to use the money they have available and provide new opportunities,” Schloman said.

Two years ago, KSU updated the first floor of the library with new seating, computers, and a coffee bar. Now they are looking to update the rest of the building, too.

“It’s time to make it [the building] more user-friendly based on how students want to study, all of that kind of thing. It looks very, very dated,” Schloman said. “So, we’re just not going to get [state] money for that kind of thing.”

Most of the money was given to them by other departments at KSU, but a little came from late fees and fine money. They get to keep that money every year “as a resource we can draw upon,” Schloman said.

BGSU’s fundraising

While OSU and KSU’s fundraising efforts have hooked them the money for library improvements, BGSU is coming up short.

Lorraine Haricombe, the outgoing dean of libraries at BGSU, has overseen a myriad of fundraising efforts during her five years at the position.

She created three of those initiatives: the Library Advocates Board, which is made up of interested individuals who donate large sums of money to the library; the Libraries’ Centennial Campaign, which takes in cash donations; and giving old books to Books of the World, a group that sells books to third-world countries and gives the University a cut of the profits.

There are ongoing programs, such as selling old books for 25 cents, and the Friends of the University Libraries organization, which takes in money through membership fees.

Even the staff themselves donate their own money back to the library.

“Many times staff donate,” Haricombe said. “The staff made a $50 scholarship and gave it to 20 student employees.”

But none of these efforts have raised nearly enough to match the $15 million-price tag on renovations that Jerome needs.

“We don’t have a concentrated effort” to raise money, Haricombe said.

Editor’s note: Read the third part of this series Monday for a look at what’s required to get a capital planning project approved by administrators, and the process of actually constructing a building on campus.

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