Posted by: Emily | September 7, 2008

Paying for printing

Between the first weeks of September in an academic library and the stressors of a Brand New Job, my thinking about the library has been opaque, rare, and luxurious–when you’re scrambling to keep track of the location of both pencils and pencil sharpeners–and at the same time!–getting distance isn’t easy. So this isn’t a particularly interesting question, but I’ll go ahead: I’m beginning to see the first signs of purchase on my new gig, highlighted by my first reference shift last Thursday. An hour and a half, working with another librarian who has been there for awhile. Guess what? At this library just like my last one, students are asked to pay for printing and many of them are upset and confused when they find that out. What?! I have to pay?! And then there’s some shouting and storming around and eventually the production of a handful of dimes.

I don’t get it. Why would a student not have to pay for printing? I had to pay for every last sheet of paper I used in the library when I was in college, and it never would have occurred to me that I wouldn’t. Where does the printing-should-be-free attitude come from? Am I missing something? Are these students right?

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Responses

  1. At the small college where I currently work and the small college where I used to work, printing was free for students. The theory in both places is that the students pay such a high cost to attend the school (either in terms of $$ or having to put together financial aid packages) that nickel-and-dime things like paying for printing are simply out of the question. That, and it would cost the schools more to implement print management solutions than it costs to let them print for free.

    In an informal survey I saw of other printing policies at other small colleges like the two I know, the division in pay-for-print and free-printing was about 50/50.

  2. At my institution, students are entitled to a certain number of copies/printouts based on the number of credit hours they’re taking. It’s a very generous allotment, too, but it’s not “free,” because these allotments are funded by the mandatory Student Technology Fee all students are charged. The way this is administered is very efficient, too–the allotment is attached to your computer login, so your printouts are automatically deducted from your account when you are logged into a public computer. If you use a copy machine, you swipe your university ID card, and the copies are automatically deducted this way. It works this way all over campus, on all public campus computers, in the library and in labs.

    I *love* the way this is handled, because a librarian does not have to police it in any way. There are no cards to charge out, or money to collect. It is awesome.

    As to where students get the idea that they should get all of these things for free–I suspect it may be because students think that they are paying so much money anyway, so some things should be issued or provided for free. Which perspective I can logically understand, if I keep in mind that students probably have no idea how these things are funded. Who pays for the paper? Who pays for the printer toner? Who pays for the technology that makes all of this possible? Students don’t really know or care, they just want it provided for them without having to think about it.

    When I was in college, I had to pay for all of my printing and copying, and it never would have occurred to me that these things would be free. I wonder if this is one of those things that typifies that whole “millennials” thing–a construct I am so weary of, because it is reductive, and the endless discussions about this idea are so boring to me. But if we’re talking about the traditional 18-year-old fresh-out-of-high school student, I do concede there are some generational differences here at play that dictate expectations and entitlement.

    Who’d have thought that I’d have so much to say about this!?

  3. My school (FTE around 4300) charges a library technology fee based on number of credit hours in which the student in enrolled, and because of that we give everyone “free” printing. They’re paying for it, of course, but it feels free.

    Oh, and we have lots of nontraditional students, so I’m a little reluctant to think that the expectation of free printing is just a millennials thing, especially given that it’s the older students who are generally the most vocal when there’s something going on that they don’t like.

  4. We have a OIT fee, not based on credit hours, but on enrollment. Every student, part time or full time, graduate or undergraduate, pays the fee. The state of Tennessee offers free classes for senior citizens, but they also must pay the fee. Students can then print and photocopy for “free” while the money lasts. Many students use only a small part of the fee and it does not roll over to the next semester.

  5. I guess I understand the pure mathematics of a technology fee that includes a fee for printing, but I think we’ll always have trouble when we ask students to do things one way some of the time, and some other way the rest of the time. Like, why can’t it just be one way, all of the time? I worked in one library with a turnstile that required card swipe access after 8pm while you could just breeze on through during the day. The number of students who swiped and swiped waiting for a beep around one in the afternoon!

    I think it’s just another example of needlessly complex systems. If I’m going to pay for printing, I’d rather just pay the one way.

  6. I never really used up 200 prints per semester at SLC, so I got kind of used to free printing, and I admit, I grumbled a bit at the idea of having to shell out cash to get prints (not necessarily because I feel free printing is a god-given-right, but rather because I am in grad school and cheap).

    To my surprise, Drexel’s iSchool gives out free printing, only to iSchool students! Not just that, but free, unlimited printing! Makes me want to go and print out all those e-reserve articles I have to read. I don’t know if this comes out of a specific iSchool fee or what – I’m sure it does. Drexel charged me $30 just to “process” my immunization record.

  7. I know it’s a month later, but I was reminded of this discussion by today’s Unshelved strip:

    http://www.unshelved.com/archive.aspx?strip=20081013


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