Sorry, no creative lead-in like in my colleague Lynda Kellam’s recent budget post.
The UNC Board of Governors met on Friday to allocate 2011-12 budget cuts for each campus. UNC Greensboro ended up with a 15% cut. (UNC Chapel Hill earned the biggest cut, at 18%.) This is after several years in a row of smaller, permanent cuts, as well as one-time give-backs of money to the state.
For students, there will be fewer classes and sections, bigger class size, reduced retention rates, and longer times to graduate. Tuition will stay the same in 2011-12, but less financial aid will be available.
There will be fewer non-tenure track faculty, like instructors and practitioners of practice. (Some of those folks have been big supporters of the library, including research instruction and student use of databases.)
The liaisons will have to get used to teaching bigger classes. This is hardly a new trend. Two years ago MKT 426 was reduced from two sections to one, and the many sections of MGT 309 (required as an upper level speaking intensive class for all business school majors, and including research instruction by me) rose from a maximum of 25 students to 30.
Yesterday we learned that most of the library’s cuts will come out of collections: a 28.6% collections cut. Big picture: the library’s collections will look very different a year from now. How different I can’t say. Maybe there will simply be fewer subscriptions and fewer new books. Perhaps our cuts will be more strategic, which some parts of the collection largely protected while others cut heavily and permanently.
Smaller picture: whither business collections?
I am a business librarian based in a general library. We have firm order book budgets for each academic department, but use big, shared budgets for serials, approval books, and databases.
Journals? UNCG has done well with the “big deal” ejournal packages, where most of our serials money now goes. The profs usually tell me that we have access to whatever journals they look for. (One department head mentioned downloading and emailing articles to a friend at UT Austin who didn’t have access to them there. Hmm you should probably keep that kind of behavior to yourself in the future, professor.) We have few print-only academic journals anymore, but still a number of print trade journals like WWD and Advertising Age as well as the popular business magazines. Should we keep those trades?
Hopefully we will take a hard look at how much money we can take out of the book budgets. All four UNCG business school departments (which includes Economics) told me last spring that yes, ejournals and databases are more important to them than books, and that we should make serious book spending cuts if necessarily. They know about the declining per-capita circulation statistics in academic libraries, and that a big percentage of the books in our libraries never circulate. And they like the idea of our patron-select ebooks, which we’ve done for a few years now through MyiLibrary. Administratively, it would be easy to cut the firm order budgets.
I wonder if it is also time to consider serious changes to the approval plans. Do we know that books from the university publishers are used more than books from trade publishers, which have more restrictive approval plan specs? Do we really need to automatically buy all those Wiley finance books, given that the finance profs are much more concerned with buying and using data sets? There is opportunity here for some acquisitions and circulation data crunching.
But as at most academic libraries, the money we spend on books is small compared to ejournal and database spending.
Business reference books? We long ago cancelled most of the business reference serials and transferred the money to the database budget to pick up the e-versions where available. That was a nice way to expand database offerings in flat budget years.
A committee of three makes the final decisions on the database budget, based on usage data and input from the liaisons. So we UNCG liaisons have to be competitive salespersons and make effective sales pitches on the behalf of our departments’ students and faculty. This can be tough, since as most of you know,
- Business databases can be pretty expensive, and…
- We usually need a wide variety of them to cover all the subdisciplines that make up “Business”.
Even though we haven’t had favorable budgets over the last few years, we were able to pick up a few new subscriptions by making cuts elsewhere. We have dropped a few databases of secondary importance. In one case we dropped one title in order to pick up a much better (yet cheaper) competing title. We added another Mintel module by making small, permanent cuts to the Business Administration and CARS firm order book budgets and transferring that money to the database budget. Last summer we cut our lowest-use market research report database to pick up BizMiner, which quickly become a database we can’t live without. (I had a rare significant summer question on Monday: “I’m trying to find an industry report on picture frames” [manufacturing and/or wholesaling]. BizMiner was the only source I could find with data specific to those micro-industries.)
The library used to pay about 75% of the costs for our WRDS package, but now our percentage is down to 25%. Will we maintain that level of support?
With database decisions, I usually try for breadth of content. So for example I’ve never pushed to get ABI-INFORM, since NC LIVE provides Business Source Premier, even though ABI is also a great article database.
If we have to make more cuts to databases, I’m not sure what my move would be. We do have a few big expensive players with some overlap: Mergent, S&P NetAdvantage, and Business & Company Resource Center (although we don’t pay for unlimited users for that last one). But all three of those have important unique content and functionality. All of our business-related databases serve a particular need, I believe. Many are used by classes and grad students outside of the business school, too. Any cuts in business database will hurt somewhere.