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Author Topic: Question regarding printing policies (and tactfully negotiating a policy change)  (Read 45685 times)
wrenagain
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« on: January 31, 2012, 1:15:45 PM »

I'm a librarian at a small (~900 student) public college. A recent policy change is (at the risk of sounding dramatic) threatening the library's image and our ability to serve our students.

As a cost-saving measure, the school's administration decided that as of the start of the current academic year, paper is no longer to be provided for the public printers on campus. Students must bring their own paper if they want to print.

We are going on five months with this policy, and as the person who spends the most time at our main desk, I hear the bulk of the complaints about this. It's clearly not working. But the administration is reluctant to make a change (and, when the issue is raised, point out that technically, this was decided on by the students, who voted for this over being charged for paper).

The point I want to make to the administration is that this should never have been left up to the students - that IT and other parties on campus should have researched the options and found an appropriate solution. (A system for managing printing was apparently deemed too costly to implement.)

As a new employee (less than six months on the job), I don't want to rock the boat too hard. But it seems like a crazy policy - I've never known another academic library to do such a thing. It's frankly embarrassing, and worse, it makes me feel that we're poorly serving our students. (To add insult to injury we're in a rural area, and the only paper available locally is the $7 packs sold by the campus bookstore.)

Suggestions - both for a more effective way to manage paper/printing, and for a way to tactfully raise this issue with administration - would be much appreciated.
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larryc
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« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2012, 4:17:59 PM »

This is obviously the stupidest printer policy ever invented. Can you just tell them that? No?

I have been at plenty of campuses where you send your job to the printer, then pay with a magnetic swipe card at the printing station before the job actually prints. Surely a commercial company could come in and set this up for you.

As for the political aspects--STFU. You might log the interactions you have with students so you have some data if and when someone asks your opinion, you might research alternatives for the same reason, but until you are asked, STFU.
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wrenagain
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« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2012, 8:48:14 AM »

Thanks for the reply!

"This is obviously the stupidest printer policy ever invented. Can you just tell them that? No?"

Our director certainly tried! (Both before and after this nonsense was implemented.)

"Surely a commercial company could come in and set this up for you."

Ah, yes, but that would involve the school spending money. (Insanity!)

"As for the political aspects--STFU."

Yep, that's pretty much the plan. And I think that logging feedback is a good idea. (Hmm, to include the profanity, or not to include the profanity?).

But something needs to happen, soon. It's 7:44 a.m. I've been here 14 minutes and I've already heard one F-bomb, two requests for paper, and at least ten complaints. I can't take this much longer.

Director thinks the students should pipe up and protest and that if we stop slipping them sheets of paper from our supply, they'll be more motivated to organize something to address this. I don't know.
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inlibrarian
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« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2012, 10:47:07 AM »

Can you order paper and sell it to the students at cost?  Administrators never have to actually deal with the complaints, do they?

Our stupid printing issue is that the web site states that we have color printing for students, but in actuality the only color printer available to them is in the library and not run through the IT print budget for students.  It was "too complicated" to track color printing with the print management system.  Profs require color for some assignments and students beg us to print for them and we tried saying no for a while.  Now we have caved in, but it is such a hassle because they actually have to give us documents on flash drives so we can print from a staff computer.

I do not understand why the students are so passive about this. 
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shrek
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« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2012, 10:54:53 AM »

memorize the phone number where they can call to register to complain and give it to the students who would like to do so.
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glowdart
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« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2012, 10:56:03 AM »

Can you sell the swipe card to the campus by making sure that campus gets a 1 cent cut of each copy (or something) to pay for maintenance?  There have to be reasons why so many other campuses either have that system or they have printing allotments hooked up to the student's computer logins.  

Can you all (library staff, with the blessing of your boss) call your friends at other campuses and survey what they do and how it pays for itself and then present those options to your boss who can then present it to the admin?  

Or you (not you, literally, larryc's STFU still applies) could just invite your administrators come to the lab at 10 pm on the night before spring break when all of your students are frantically printing and are printing on each other's paper -- and require the admin to print their own Friday meeting minutes or reports in the middle of this chaos.  

Where are the helicopter parents?  If ever they were needed...
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empyrean_aisles
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« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2012, 11:05:00 AM »

Our library's cafe sells basic stationery supplies - pens, USB sticks, etc. If you have a cafe in the building, or one nearby, could they be persuaded to sell packets of paper?
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wrenagain
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« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2012, 12:18:04 PM »

Thanks for the replies! All good ideas. As far as selling things nearby goes, we are without a cafe/shop other than the overpriced bookstore - though I've thought of tipping off the local convenience shops to the fact that that they could do really well selling paper at a dollar or two under what the bookstore charges.

Can you order paper and sell it to the students at cost?  Administrators never have to actually deal with the complaints, do they?

We did try this, in the form of a jar students could donate money to, with the idea that it would be student managed and the library wouldn't be involved. A few students generously got us started by donating packs of paper, and things worked well for a few months.

Then I messed things up - the paper supply was running low just before exams and no student had stepped forward to replenish it, so I ordered a case of paper. The box got flagged because I had purchased it with my personal Amazon account and had it shipped to myself at work. When I explained, we were very quickly told that we were not permitted to collect money from students. Yeah, yeah, I shouldn't have used my own account, but we probably would have gotten "found out" anyway.

Students are still loudly mourning the loss of that system, and no, administration (usually) does not have to deal with the complaints. BUT two weeks ago I spoke to student government, at their request, and clarified some things for them. I made it very clear that the library is obligated to follow campus policy and there's nothing we can do, but I spelled out for them that this is a campus-wide change that just happens to be most visibly annoying at the library and I answered some of their questions about cost. Any information I gave them was with my boss's blessing, and it sounds like they're moving on taking this up through the appropriate channels now that they're better equipped to do so.

So! I won't hold my breath, but with any luck, we won't have to deal with this next year. A little herd of students just left the printer area cursing and I can't help wondering whether this qualifies as a "hostile work environment." ;)
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libwitch
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« Reply #8 on: February 16, 2012, 11:32:01 AM »

Since it sounds like no one in the library is actually in any position to change the policy, I would recommend giving providing slips of paper with the email of the person that the students can contact who can change it.

Its not very nice, but if they start hearing complaints from the students directly, its amazing how quickly they can start considering other options. 
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collegekidsmom
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« Reply #9 on: February 17, 2012, 12:12:40 AM »

This is a campuswide policy-so that means there is no computer center, lab, no place at all to print something without bringing your own paper? That's what the students wanted. Everyone will just have to supply their own paper at your university, and they know that, so I guess that's just how things will be. It's easier for the library that there is no paper anywhere on campus and the library has not done something unpopular for any other reason. It is not a library issue, and the students will need to revisit the policy for which they voted if it is not working. The library did not institute the policy, and so you shouldn't have to feel defensive.

It seems the university wants to go with less paper, and maybe that's not a bad thing. Students will have to send documents off as PDFs, or find other workarounds. They may need to be provided with information about the policy as well as contact information for complaining about the policy. They could start a petition, especially since it's such a small school. They need to speak up if they want policies changed.

We have the limited paper with swipecard system. It gets them a small amount of printing. Some students really don't print much, and when our paper was free, some people printed piles. I think our university has created an environment where printing is used very sparingly.

I am less bothered by reading about the lack of paper than I am to read that there are libraries where librarians can't speak up or rock the boat. I am a librarian and we are always speaking up and always rocking the boat.



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jksegr
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« Reply #10 on: April 03, 2012, 9:56:58 AM »

initially may seem embarrassing when students and campus policy is different because of the paper. maybe the college should provide a budget for supplies of paper, because the other campuses have done so. it would be different if in asia. they buy their own paper they will use, and even print them in their own homes
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tinyzombie
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« Reply #11 on: April 03, 2012, 10:09:22 AM »

initially may seem embarrassing when students and campus policy is different because of the paper. maybe the college should provide a budget for supplies of paper, because the other campuses have done so. it would be different if in asia. they buy their own paper they will use, and even print them in their own homes

Are you, perhaps, a paper seller?

Are you Jim Halpert?
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palla
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« Reply #12 on: April 03, 2012, 10:56:13 AM »

Do you have a school newspaper?  In addition to giving the phone/email of a person to send complaints to, suggest that each student write the school paper.  Get an article about it in the paper to indirectly suggest that the students rally to change the policy.
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biologist_
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« Reply #13 on: June 12, 2012, 6:40:48 PM »

The policy sounds like a good way to destroy every student-accessible printer on campus pretty quickly.  It's got to be hard on a printer when each student comes along with 5 to 15 sheets of rumpled paper, opens the printer and loads the paper, closes it, prints, opens the paper tray again to remove any extra sheets, and closes it again.

Toner is at least as expensive as paper, so any cost-savings come largely from reducing the amount of printing.  Here, our students have to pay to print.  They also have to log in to use the computers, so charging for printing is tied to their campus login.
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baleful_regards
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« Reply #14 on: June 12, 2012, 8:01:43 PM »

uPrint is what my campus has - we swipe our ID cards (no different cards needed) log in, print what we need, and the amount is placed on our tuition bill. I think I had an additional 5.66 of printing this term.

I am happy, no - thrilled, by this system over the old one in which we had a special printer card that was 2 bucks...and constantly demagnetized... and you had to go to the one place on campus where you could recharge the card.....blah, blah, blah.

The bottom line is that enough students complain to Admin, then it will change. In your action of trying to be nice and solve the problem you have only created a kind of "kindness backlash" where there is more complaining - TO YOU, the person trying to be nice.

I don't dispute people paying for their own copies ( I am shocked that any place doesn't do this) but the paper situation is ludicrous. Who carries stacks of paper around??
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