Minutes: December 4, 2003
This meeting was held with Jim Williams & Scott Seaman, to discuss issues relating to the budget.
Scott explained the present budget situation: the budget cuts are 1.2 million. Basically 1/3 of it was taken from personnel (faculty, staff, students) costs; 1/3 - facility costs; 1/3 - collections. Student budget spending is currently on track. Operational spending is not on track: we have spent 2/3 of the budget. Photocopying has become a loss over the last few years, instead of being a profit.
Jim said that the filling of library positions is closely related to the budget situation. The core services have to be provided for. The library will provide a questionnaire to faculty and students in the middle of the next semester to examine what services are most important to them. The budget for the next year is up in the air, the University is trying again to get "Enterprise status," which would improve our situation. Jim stressed that in spite of the cuts we did not lay people off.
In answer to the questions posed on the agenda* (see below), Jim and Scott said that:
Some reallocations have been done recently, based on demand. The library staff is 155 people, there are presently 7 vacancies. The money the library saves on vacancies goes in part to pay a "tax" we owe the campus ($180 thousand). We lost 6 staff lines.
The inventory project is paid by savings on vacant faculty positions (2 in cataloging, 1/2 in reference). We would prefer that this be a regular funded budget line, and there is starting to be more appreciation of the completion of the catalog by the Campus administration. The BCR Inventory is projected to be complete in 6-7 years at 100k a year. This project may be the next to take cuts if we continue to have budget problems.
As for the student budget, Jim hopes to get money again at the last minute, like last time (after planning significant reductions in hours). Scott said that the quote about "bringing the Student Budget under control" refers to the fact that we no longer have the salary savings that have been used in the past to bail out the student budget overspending.
In the spring there will again be a LIBQUAL survey. It will not be department specific, but comments that are added are in hundreds and often are department specific. Jim reads them all. This is a metric that we have to find out about our patrons and ourselves. Also, an Assessment Committee is being formed with a charge that includes gathering information about ourselves. The charge is completed and there will be a call for volunteers interested in serving on this committee. Jim stated that the State's fiscal spending situation appears that it will be worse before becoming better and this may help lead to us to Enterprise Status. The Quality for Colorado program provided additional dollars this year for CU but next year there will be more competition for these dollars from other educational institutions.
To the person who described the scenario in their department as "operating in triage mode," Jim said that this has been the situation in many departments. He said this is the natural result of the budget cuts and that departments that are having trouble need to have a discussion internally to decide what services they simply must cut or need to defer. We cannot continue to think we can provide all the services we have in the past. Jim congratulated the departments that have had this discussion, for instance, SPC and ILL decided they needed to cut their open hours.
Jim described planning around a single reference desk as being one way that we may be able to assist departments gain more flexibility and "improve quality of work-life." The pool of staffers for a desk will grow when the number of desks is reduced. For instance the number of weekends a staff member will need to work would be reduced when weekend work is divided between more people.
Leadership plans mentioned in the Strategic Plan could take many forms. One example is the way an ad hoc team was put together to assist in getting Engineering materials off-site. It will take initiative on the part of staff or faculty to create these leadership opportunities. Jim welcomes ideas for boosting morale from the staff and faculty, and suggests more frequent meetings like this one.
The former ILL office at the East entrance continues to be a space used as "Ralphies Resource center" and as an orientation office at the beginning of the year. Plans for the Norlin rehab continue to have a space like this designated, but it would be part of a non-library area that would be grouped around the 1st floor and east side. This area of non-library spaces (including the cafe) would not need to be controlled by library security (book alarms).
* Questions posed in advance to Jim and Scott:
1) What will be the general priorities for filling vacant staff positions?
2) Are reallocations frozen along with some vacant positions?
3) What is the status of the current staff opening(s)? (which depts. are hiring, have any positions already been filled?)
4) Is anything else in the libraries being funded by vacant staff positions?
5) Which positions fund the BCR inventory project?
6) What is the outlook for the student budget in 2004/05? Should students supervisors who have been using some of the $160,000 from the Chancellor to staff circulation desks plan for a 40% cut starting this summer?
7) In the last ten years in my department, the workload has doubled, but the number of staff positions has remained the same (I have these statistics in a file right next to my desk). In other departments, too, I have heard that duties have increased both in amount and complexity, while staff position numbers have remained constant or have been reduced. During the time I have been an employee of the Libraries, I have seen my department's level of service to patrons decline, not because we are not working as hard as ever, but because we simply have too much to do. Naturally, the cut to our student budget has only worsened this situation. Now we are operating in triage mode - trying to cut services wherever we can, instead of trying to excel. I think that the central mission - the core mission -- of any library should be to provide its patrons with the information they are seeking, and I know our department is not able to do all we should be doing in this respect, solely because of understaffing and lack of support.
These are my questions:
a) What metrics or method of assessment (if any) will the Libraries administration use to determine how this decline in service affects its patrons, the University community? How department-specific would an assessment be?
b) Does the Libraries administration have any benchmarks or metrics in place to analyze when the workload in a particular department is such that the department is understaffed? Any audits planned that might make a case for adding more staff positions?
c) How bad will things have to get in terms of decline in services, overworked staff and low morale before resources are allocated to fund additional staff positions? Is there any hope at all?
8) I have a question about this quote from the meeting minutes, "if we are hiring, where is the money coming from? Scott answered that that is why we are going slowly in hiring and bringing the total student budget under control. By bringing the student budget under control and keeping it in control we won't need the salary savings as much." I found this especially confusing since salary savings tend to come from unfilled faculty lines, staff lines are charged a hefty fee. I also wonder why the student budget that is cut by 40% in many departments needs to be brought under control. We are fortunate in our branch to have the money from the provost to supplement our budget. We don't need to be under control - we just need money to keep us open. I would think any salary savings would be desperately needed in Norlin departments to supplement the student budget. So, I could use some clarification about this and the process itself. Non-directly-budget-related questions
1) Regarding the leadership plan mentioned by the strategic planning committee- What is the goal of this plan/program? If staff leaders are identified, what would be expected of them? Are any non-monetary incentives involved?
2) The weight of budget cuts seems to fall disproportionately on staff (as opposed to faculty), who are primarily responsible for basic operations. Are there any discussions of general morale-building efforts in these difficult times?
3) What will happen to the former ILL office space (lately known as Ralphie's)?
Thanks to Ann Frajzyngier and Carl Stewart for taking minutes.