University Libraries Take Steps to Cope with Budget Reductions
The University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries is taking a number of fiscal management actions in order to offset the continuing and cumulative effect of budget reductions. Measures include the ongoing cancellations of journal subscriptions, sustained reduction of book purchases, introduction of fees for public patrons, and restructuring of overdue fines. In addition, staffing levels, which have chronically been low, have been reduced even further.
According to Libraries Dean and Director James F. Williams, “In the last decade, inflation has continuously outstripped budget increases, resulting in a significant loss of purchasing power. Thus far, we have managed to trim and reallocate to minimize the impact on our users. Now we are compelled to make difficult and painful choices in order to maintain services and resources critical to our primary campus learning, teaching and research audience.”
Shortly after joining the Libraries, Dean Williams successfully campaigned to increase the Libraries 1991/92 materials budget by 28% from $4,717,514 to $6,536,336. In 92/93, the materials budget climbed another 10% to $6,597,445, which was followed by a 3% drop in 93/94. A minimal increase in 94/95 was followed by 8% and 9% increases in 95/96 and 96/97, when the total topped eight million at $8,064,613. The budget dropped below eight million in 97/98, when the Libraries suffered a 9% cut. With an 8% increase in 98/99, the budget again topped eight million and then dropped below that with a 3% cut in 99/00. Increases of 1% in 00/01, 4% in both 01/02 and 02/03, and 2% in 03/04 brought the materials total to $8,628,115. Another 3% cut in 04/05 left the bottom line at $8,341,781.
Nationally and internationally, academic libraries are faced with a dramatically escalating volume and cost of scholarly resources, especially scholarly journals. Research libraries in the U.S. spent 227% more on journals in 2002 than in 1986; the Consumer Price Index rose 57% during this same period. In fact, the annual inflationary increase in journals is greater than the annual inflationary increases in the cost of health care.
In the last 15 years, University Libraries materials expenditures have increased by 92%, while journal prices have increased more than 215%, far exceeding both inflation and library budgets and necessitating cancellation of over 40% of the Libraries' subscriptions. In 1994/95, the Libraries subscribed to 18,161 serial titles; in 2004/05 the number has dropped by half to less than 9,000, although the budget dollar amount has increased from $4,065,724 to almost $6,000,000. In 2000, Libraries faculty worked with teaching and research faculty to cut approximately 10% of the serials budget in most subject areas, for a total of $500,000. This academic year, a similar amount must be trimmed.
Since 1991/92, the University Libraries have allocated monies for electronic resources, primarily to cover the access fees of bibliographic utilities, networks, and consortia, which enable the Libraries to acquire shared, reduced-cost access to electronic sources. The amount has varied annually from about $250,000 to a one-time high of $500,000 in 01/02, averaging $300,000 from 1992-2004.
In addition, the Libraries have self-funded a large share of the costs of building and maintaining off-site storage at the Fitzsimmon campus, which was required given severe space shortages and unsafe load-bearing conditions in Norlin and the branches. As no support was available from the state or campus, the only option for the Libraries has been to decrease the base of the materials budget by the $350,000 required for PASCAL annually for the past 5 years.
Given the dramatically escalating costs of scholarly materials, in actuality, minimal budgetary increases that fail to cover emerging demands and run-away materials inflation result in cutbacks. In order to cope with cuts – whether produced in-effect or by reductions in actual dollar amounts – a variety of strategies have been employed over the last fifteen years.
Reductions have become the norm in facility maintenance, capital equipment replacement (including security systems, public furniture, and computers), the binding of library material, and service hours. In addition, the Libraries have been unable to invest in large-scale, forward-moving initiatives that are the norm among peer institutions, such as digitization projects.
In the University Libraries, the routine challenges of persistent sub-standard staffing levels have been exacerbated by the practice of maintaining staff vacancies for prolonged periods to provide temporary salary “savings” to offset materials and other cuts. In fact, UCB is ranked 96th out of the 114 Association of Research Libraries (ARL) members for total professional and support staff per FTE student. And, without adequate staffing, backlogs develop in most areas, including the acquisition and processing of materials. Once materials reductions have been effected, both staff and purchase costs of retrospectively acquiring missed items are prohibitive.
Most recently, the Libraries introduced a public patron card fee, effective July 1, 2005, of $75 per year or $65 for residents 65 and older. Public patron cards were formerly issued at no cost. In an attempt to reduce billing costs, circulation services has revamped the fines structure by eliminating most overdue fines, extending the length of time between the first day a book is overdue and the point at which a bill is generated by state collections, and increasing the number of reminder emails to borrowers.
The University Libraries remain grateful to the CU-B administration for its fiscal support to date. At the same time, given the vagaries and negative impact of past and current fiscal constraints, the Libraries remain concerned about their continuing ability to be responsive to the teaching, learning, research and service demands of its users within and beyond the broader University community.
June 8, 2005. Revised August 2, 2005.