Pay to Print

Original: February 22, 2011 Issue 11

By: Dominic Gwinn

Staff Writer

A strange piece of technology loomed on the library’s first floor for a few weeks last semester.

Tucked away in the far corner of the library, near room 111A, right next to the stand-up computer terminals, two slim, sleek, five foot kiosks stood in place of the library’s normal, bulky and squat printers. These strange pieces of new technology were the first glimpse of the campus’ future policy of print management.

Print management is the college’ response to the staggering amount of paper that Montgomery College’s three campuses use on a daily basis, and it means that pretty soon, students are going to pay to print.

On Oct. 27, the installation of the two printing kiosks marked the start of a pilot program initiated by the college to study some of the effects of switching to a pay-to-print system. The college contracted with a proposed vendor, WEPA, who installed and maintained the kiosks until Nov. 15 when the pilot was completed.

While the pilot was in progress, instead of just rushing to print the final draft of midterm essays, students using the workstation terminals had to navigate through a few menus and input a code on the printing kiosk. The kiosk then spat out your print job, and a sign politely asked users to conduct a five-question survey on their experience.

According to a pilot evaluation submitted by Library Technical Assistant Shuwing Wu, “Fourteen computers were linked to these two kiosks, although WEPA has the capacity of printing both color and black and white, the WEPA computer technician installed only the black and white printer driver as requested by the library.”

“The WEPA kiosks operate very much like vending machines,” Wu stated in her evaluation. “WEPA pre-loaded $300 on the kiosks. Black and White print costs $.09 per page, and print jobs can be submitted to the kiosks either over the web or locally via a USB drive.”

Of the 90 valid surveys completed and submitted, 48 percent said they would use the system again, 33 percent said No, and another 18 percent said, maybe. “WEPA is like a pay-on-demand commented Rockville Campus’ Head Librarian, Delritta Hornbuckle. “It was just Rockville, the machines were only here in the library, but my understanding is that this is a college wide plan.” The pay per print model is the library’s attempt to combat excess waste as well as put a dent in its operating costs.

“When we get deliveries of paper each month, we have stacks of boxes that are just full of paper, reach about as high the top of the doors.” says Hornbuckle.

“It’s one of those things where it’s a no-win,” Hornbuckle says. “You do want to address the waste by conserving paper, but it’s asking students to go into their pocket and you can’t dismiss that. There’s a range of what students can afford and it is an issue.”

“I think it’s ridiculous, it’s a ridiculous idea…We pay a fee for technology usage; if it’s paid for, they should be more cautious about the resources,” remarked student Yvann Karamoko. “I feel like, if it’s
going to be that way, they should take the fee out of the tuition.”

Despite the gripes of students (and community members tend to freeload), the library has proposed what it feels to be modest fees. “The proposed fee is 10 cents for black and white, 50 cents for color,” states Hornbuckle.

“My understanding is it’s going to be cards. You’ll go to the bookstore and buy a five or ten dollar printing card…understanding is it’s a pre-paid card. You’ll have a code on it, you’ll go to the machine and put the code in and [the system] spits it out.”

Print management is still under review, Hornbuckle stressed, “It’s a big change on both ends. It’s another fee in a very tight budget time.”

“WEPA, or another vendor will go live by July 1,” Hornbuckle noted, so there is still time for students to voice their opinions.

“I feel like a lot of students won’t be happy with it,” said student Brittany Dobson. “A lot of students are here are on scholarship, and they don’t have the resources or money to throw around on things like that. There might be some way to meet in the middle, like being able to pay up front.”

“You have to print somehow. It’s pretty essential to being a student.” Dobson added. “It would definitely catch me off guard, expecting to print something, and then realizing I don’t have my wallet. I understand where they’re coming from though, I know there’s been a lot of budget cuts recently…It’s sort of a necessary evil.”