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From the Editor's Desk

Reba Leiding, Knowledge Edge Editor

People who work in libraries like things to be calm and orderly, and that preference extends to budgets and funding cycles as well.  This past year, however, has been more like a roller coaster ride. 

In late summer, we had to cope with the Commonwealth’s fiscal crisis, with the threat of reversions looming on the horizon.  Hiring was frozen, and a moratorium on book buying set in place as we waited to hear the extent of budget cuts.  But the University managed to protect the library budget, and we were released to quickly begin buying books in the time remaining in the fiscal year.  Still, state budget problems could continue.  Plus, ongoing inflation of journal subscription prices (about ten percent per year) meant we should review our journal collection for the second time in four years, pruning what we could to stay within our steady-state budget. 

Then another twist in the road!  Our longtime serials jobber, Faxon, became a victim of troubled financial times and filed for bankruptcy.  JMU was one of many libraries caught in this debacle, along with such institutions as Virginia Tech, the Library of Congress and the National Institutes of Health.  It is difficult to manage of thousands of subscriptions in the best of times (that’s why larger libraries contract with serials jobbers to outsource some of the tedious tracking of subscription dates and invoices).  It proved to be tricky work sorting out which publishers had been paid before the bankruptcy, and which had not.  Luckily, many major publishers agreed to honor ongoing subscriptions while the legal problems are sorted out, so most subscriptions kept arriving without interruption (those publishers' large profit margins finally worked to the libraries’ advantage!)  Another large serials jobber, Ebsco, stepped up to take over Faxon’s business.  Not all the issues of the bankruptcy are resolved as yet, but it appears the library’s subscriptions will continue with Ebsco next year.

Then, just as we finished our Journal Review, we got the news that the University was planning to send us a one-time budget infusion of about $500,000, plus a yet-to-be-determined increase to our materials base budget.  Because of this news, we were conservative in the number of journals canceled, focusing only on those with low use.

The roller coaster takes off again as we move into new territory and begin dealing with a budget increase.  At last we have an opportunity to adjust allocations to better support new and underfunded programs. 

At the same time, two long-time staff members are retiring: Judi Breeden, Circulation Manager, and Maggie Funkhouser, Senior Cataloger, as well as Gordon Miller, Reference Librarian.  Taken together, they represent over 85 years of organizational knowledge, and will be missed.

Check next Fall’s issue of Knowledge Edge for final results of the 2003 Journal Review and other new developments.  In the meantime, hang on.

Photo of Gemini roller coaster, Cedar Point, Sandusky, OH, courtesy of Bob's Roller Cosater Image Collection, http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/~breid/rc

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