Cuts, Freezes Widespread in Academic Libraries

By Kniffel, Leonard | American Libraries, June-July 2009 | Go to article overview

Cuts, Freezes Widespread in Academic Libraries


Kniffel, Leonard, American Libraries


Many academic libraries are facing major planned or potential budget cuts as the nation's economic meltdown plays itself out. Online reports and announcements from major U.S. universities show that significant budget cuts may be widespread among members of the Association of Research Libraries and other college and university libraries across the country.

The NorthEast Research Libraries consortium has released a letter to publishers about the current collection development budget crisis its members face. According to the letter, financial officers in NERL institutions have been given specific targets for budget discipline for the next two or more years.

In NERL's home institution, Yale University, reductions in the collections budget for FY2009-10 will be on the order of 10%, with a likely additional 5% for 2010-11. NERL notes that the problems are widespread, stating, "Similar stories are told on many sides, with some of the heaviest impacts on the institutions among us that are the largest and have been the beneficiaries of important university endowments." Average cuts across the NERL consortium are about 4-5%. At a January Collection Development Council meeting, University Librarian Alice Prochaska announced that resulting from the university's 25% endowment decrease, the collections endowment budgets will see a 6.75% reduction, or approximately $900,000, and the collections general appropriation (GA) budgets will be cut by 5%, a decrease of around $300,000. "This is the first time that the general university collections budget will be cut for economic reasons," she said. (She noted that four or five years ago the library's GA was reduced by 5%, but that that reduction was not applied to the collections budgets.) The reductions Yale currently faces will take effect July 1, and may be the first of many: At a March 9 meeting, the committee minutes noted that "the library has been told to expect another 5% cut in FY2011."

Across Florida, colleges and universities were expecting the state legislature to cut up to $500 million from higher education. The University of Florida has posted a "2009-2010 Budget Reduction Proposal for the George A. Smathers Libraries, Including the Health Science Center Libraries" that details over $2.6 million in proposed budget cuts. The University Library Committee passed a resolution in January opposing the reductions and supporting retention of budgets at no less than the July 1, 2008, level for the three libraries. "We are making this recommendation because the libraries are integral to the research and educational mission of the University, as stated in the Strategic Work Plan," the committee said, further noting that "a cut in library budgets would have a detrimental effect on every educational and research program at the University."

Cornell University Library will have to cut about $944,000 from the FY2010 materials budget. "A reduction in the materials budget is in keeping with reductions across the university," said John Saylor, associate university librarian for scholarly resources and special collections, in the April 14 Cornell Chronicle. "It's unfortunate but unavoidable," he continued. "The library is committed to maintaining and building a collection that ensures our lasting position among the top research libraries." Ongoing library contract reductions are around 7-9%, with an FY2009 permanent reduction of $2.3 million.

Emory University Libraries has already cut $200,000 (1.8%) from the current (2008-09) collections budget, and FY2010 will bring additional collection cuts as the library struggles to adjust a reduced budget to inflationary pressures, which can range from 5% to 10%, according to an April report from the library's Information for Social Scientists. Chuck Spornick, head of collection management for the General Libraries, estimates that almost $637,000 (6%) will need to be trimmed from the 2010 collections budget.

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