Difficult Decisions Concerning Library Acquisitions
Some have expressed concern over the Libraries’ proposal to significantly reduce its acquisition budget as part of the current budget reduction process. I wanted to share a little more detail regarding this potential cut, and the rationale of targeting acquisitions for reductions at this time vs. another part of the Libraries’ budget.
Just like you, I don’t relish having to reduce the library’s acquisitions budget by any amount. However, let me offer a little background of the situation we’re facing. At a potential 7% reduction, the Libraries’ reduction target is the largest to date - $455,907. Compare this to the total of the past three reductions - $597,695. What does this all mean? In the last three years we have lost roughly $1 million of the $5.4 million budget that existed in 2008 when I was hired.
During the first three reductions we concentrated on reducing operations, eliminating personnel lines, and enacting efficiencies. 74% of the first three cuts were to personnel, resulting in the loss of 11.7 FTE. The acquisitions budget was primarily protected. Only $87,000, or 4%, was cut. During this same time period, other Universities dramatically reduced their acquisitions budgets. The University of Washington, a major research university, reduced theirs by 20%. UC Santa Cruz reduced their acquisitions budget by $1 million.
With this large a cut, and after having examined staffing benchmarking data (attached), and seeking to preserve library hours and core services as much as possible, the acquisitions budget can no longer be sheltered. We are proposing an acquisitions budget cut of roughly $400,000 – a 19% reduction.
The Libraries seeks to mitigate this reduction in a variety of ways:
1. We will be using one-time money from a vacant position, as well as Foundation funds to backfill some of the cut in the first year of the biennium to allow us more time to work with faculty to make informed decisions.
2. We will be utilizing cost per use data from database companies to produce a list of journals which have a high cost and experience low use. This list will be posted for all faculty to review so that they may comment on what is included on the list and assist in decision-making.
3. You may have already read our plan for a new acquisitions funding model, which will combine database and journal funding with interlibrary loan, and move to an allocation model which includes primarily books and other one-time purchase, with monies distributed by college rather than department for increased flexibility.
4. We have implemented a number of new tools, including an electronic resource management system and a new book ordering system called GOBI, which allow us to monitor purchases and get better data.
5. We are working collaboratively with the other members of the Orbis-Cascade Alliance to do more with less, continuing to sign on to group purchases, and participating in a threshold pilot whereby we will scrutinize requests for items which are already held by three other Alliance libraries.
With the expansion of the information universe there is increased emphasis on access vs. ownership. Libraries can no longer seek to own everything and instead are working to create systems by which items can be quickly purchased and distributed when needed. Even Harvard has recognized this.
Research and scholarship are changing as well. More research is performed at the article level rather than at the journal level. Interlibrary loan, Summit, and document delivery are now more rapid than ever. We hope that in concentrating on providing convenient access to the scholarship that students and faculty require, we can offset these serious cuts. We also hope that, when the economy improves, the University will choose to reinvest in the Libraries so we can purchase those items which could not be purchased during these difficult economic times.
In the coming weeks we’ll be sharing more information with you. I urge you to share your thoughts with me or with our Collection Development Librarian Jeff Purdue. Also, please review the documents attached, which provide a more in depth rationale for the acquisitions cut and information on library personnel benchmarking.