From Inside Higher Education:
Now at Lake Land, we DO charge a library fee, which underwrites our electronic resource expenditures, and helps level the playing field for online students. The 24,000+ full-text online magazines and journals, not to mention the databases of high-quality reference materials, are available 24/7 to ALL of our students (and faculty and staff), and allow us to provide resources that the college would NOT be able to fund without a large budget increase. We also bring in some revenue through fines and fees (mostly for lost items) that do not come back into the library budget. But we are not paying for ourselves, not by a long chalk.
Some folks think those expenditures are silly. You know - the "it's all online, and it's all free" crowd. And some faculty seem perfectly willing to let their students grab information for their papers from wherever [grumble, grumble]. But at least some of our students seem to have figured it out - they did over 225,000 searches in the 3 major database services we provide (incorporating several databases) and retrieved around 70,000 full-text articles last year, and library instruction reached an all-time high.
So maybe we are a "cost center". But it looks to me like those costs have some pretty definite benefits. Just sayin'...