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    Collection Budget Message to Faculty

    by Ralph Alberico, Dean of Libraries & Educational Technologies

    Faculty Colleagues,

    I am writing to explain the way in which the library is responding to the challenge of serving scholarly information needs in the current unsettled environment. At the beginning of this school year, when it became apparent that the university faced potentially devastating budget cuts; the library declared a moratorium on book ordering.  It was too late to cancel journal subscriptions in response to potential cuts.  The portion of our materials budget spent on book acquisitions, roughly 35%, was the only part of that budget that was not yet fully committed.   As you know the university budget was cut by over 10%.  While the library has suffered some cuts to its operating budget our materials budget has not been cut.  We have resumed ordering books.  And thanks to a lifting of the hiring freeze imposed on wages positions, we will be able to restore some of the operating hours we cut back at the time of the freeze.

    But our problems are far from over.  A study on higher education funding done in the year 2000 by a joint committee of the legislature found that James Madison University was under-funded for FY 2001 by $24-26 million for an institution with our characteristics.  This chronic under-funding has kept the library materials budget flat for many years.  Dramatic changes in the publishing industry have compounded the problem.  There is a crisis in scholarly communication. Journals once published by university presses and learned societies are now controlled by a handful of international publishing conglomerates.  Near monopoly conditions have resulted in hyperinflation in the cost of certain kinds of publications.  In recent years the rate of inflation for journals has been running around 10%; in earlier years it was much higher.  What that means is that our library materials budget would need to increase by $130,000 per year just to maintain our collections at current levels.  Till now our book purchasing has remained relatively steady only because we have cancelled thousands of dollars worth of journals on a periodic basis.

    Our membership in the Virtual Library of Virginia (VIVA) a state-funded consortium of academic libraries in the state has helped to mitigate the erosion of our purchasing power.  In healthy budget years, when VIVA added electronic journals and databases, we were then able to cancel our own subscriptions and recoup funds for new materials purchases.  We have also benefited by participating in cooperative licensing deals with other libraries in the state and by sharing resources among libraries in Virginia.  Even though our materials budget has not been cut, cuts to VIVA and to other libraries across the state are hurting us.  The largest libraries in the state have been hit particularly hard. Libraries are interdependent; cuts to one library affect other libraries.  Right now libraries across the state, large and small,  are slashing materials budgets and canceling subscriptions.  When the cuts are as widespread and deep as we are now experiencing, everyone in the scholarly enterprise suffers.  And reductions in the VIVA budget will result in the loss, at the end of the 2002 calendar year, of scores of journals published by Academic Press.  We have no choice but to use local funds to pay for subscriptions to a small percentage of the most heavily used journal titles as well as core databases once offered by VIVA. 

    Thus, while we are able to begin ordering books again, we cannot allocate book monies as we have in the past.  While we have not suffered cuts to our materials budget, we have had to backfill behind cuts to VIVA.  At the same time we must deal with steadily increasing costs.  We also face the possibility of cooperative deals unraveling as our strategic partners engage in massive cancellation projects. 

    Right now we face a shortfall of $135,000 from the amount that would be required to maintain current subscriptions, licenses and book allocations.  In response we have subtracted $35,000 from the library general fund which is used to purchase reference books and databases.  The remaining $100,000 is being taken from the total pot of money allocated for book purchases.  That money is distributed among funds allocated to academic programs, liaison librarians who represent academic programs and approval plans in specific disciplines.  The amount of money available for the remainder of the fiscal year for purchases in support of each academic program will be divided among academic programs along the same proportions as in the past.  The amount spent on behalf of each program prior to the moratorium will be subtracted from the amount available.  Each department will get the same percentage of the library materials pie.  But the pie will be smaller by $100,000.  We will not attempt to allocate money directly to departments this late in the fiscal year.  Instead we are asking the library representatives in each department to work directly with their liaison librarians in selecting and ordering materials to support specific academic programs.  We are counting on the tradition of cooperation and trust between librarians and departmental faculty to help us get through these lean times.

    We are not certain what changes the future may bring.  The budget situation for libraries in Virginia next year may be much worse than the current situation.  During the coming months we will systematically review and prioritize all of our subscriptions, contracts and licenses.  We will also look closely at use of our collections.  Usage patterns will help us determine when it is more cost effective to subscribe to a journal and when it is more cost effective to obtain articles through interlibrary loan or document delivery.  We must be prepared to respond to additional cuts in a systematic and balanced way. 

    This process will not be easy.  It will follow on the heels of a major cancellation project that we did in 2000, which resulted in many cancelled subscriptions in 2001.  In addition to canceling subscriptions and reducing allocations we may need to adapt to circumstances in other libraries and in the publishing industry.  The situation is complex and the most fundamental problems cannot be resolved with money alone.  As we respond to the many challenges we face, we will be working closely with you, the faculty, to develop strategies for coping and for effecting changes that will foster the goal of open scholarly and scientific communication.  I will be talking to the Faculty Senate and other groups to make the faculty aware of the complex problems we face and to find ways that we can cooperate to address those problems.  As we deal with short term and long term issues, your liaison librarian can help you understand the specific details that are of greatest concern to your department.  I appreciate your patience and support.

    November 19, 2002

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