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What Does a Library Cost?

IUP Libraries Dean Luis Gonzalez provided the following estimates to illustrate what operating a modern library costs. Garnering support for the libraries system is the key to its progress.

“Gifts of any size are helpful. While our needs are great, we are able to make incredible use of smaller gifts, because they can translate into single items, such as books and small-scale equipment,” Gonzalez said.

Readers interested in assisting IUP Libraries are urged to contact Emily Davis Smeltz ’01, M’02 at 724-357-5555 or to visit the Support IUP website.


Like its counterparts everywhere, IUP’s libraries system is evolving. Read more at Don’t Say ‘Shush’

IUP currently is able to spend roughly $1.75 million annually on acquisitions, which are defined as books, periodicals subscriptions, monographs, database licensing and renewals, etc.

He believes a university of IUP’s size—roughly 15,000 students—should spend $2.25 million annually. Periodicals and database subscription costs rise 5 to 10 percent each year Databases cost approximately $1 million a year. Currently, the university spends about $750,000 on books, monographs, periodicals, and serials.

Gonzalez also envisions more leisure-reading materials. When he arrived, he was glad to discover an endowed fund established by the estate of the late Mary Jane McMurray Schafer ’31 that supports the purchase of new releases found on best sellers lists—fiction and nonfiction—for patrons to enjoy.


Today’s students are required to access the Internet and other online resources, which requires tools and, for many students, training on how to use the tools. Were Gonzalez to get his wish for additional classrooms, which would allow him to expand his operation’s services, one classroom would require an initial investment of $17,000 for computers—accommodating fifteen students—and an interactive whiteboard, which costs roughly $8,000.

He said the computers would need to be replaced—because of upgrades and wear and tear—every two to three years.

Information Commons

To create the information commons Gonzalez hopes to achieve, he estimates a need of between $3 million and $5 million. Twenty-five percent or more of that would be required to purchase traditional computers and alternative workstations for multimedia projects, appropriate software for multimedia projects, reproduction and duplication equipment, and furniture.

The balance of the need would fund architectural design and physical renovation of the first floor of Stapleton to create a service center atmosphere and personnel to staff it.

“A million dollars today doesn’t go as far as it used to,” he quipped.

Special Collections

This special area of the library, which doubles as a treasure chest of rare pieces and archives, has no state-funded budget. Rather, it relies on the generosity of the private sector to fund its acquisitions, which often provide historical insight to the university community or become focal points for engaging discussion. For example, the Special Collections area used private funding to purchase first-edition works of Jules Verne.

This area also holds all the official papers of the R&P Coal Company, including mine maps, which are used for modern-day safety and rescue as well as for historical research. Special Collections would benefit from the donation of rare or historical items or monetary gifts to acquire them.