April 14, 2009

Library scales back on books, journals, databases

Facing the same budgetary challenges as the university in the coming year, Cornell University Library will reduce acquisitions of library materials for fiscal year 2010. Cuts will be made in the materials budget, which supports the acquisition of books, subscriptions to journals, access to online databases, purchase of DVDs and other audiovisual items, rare and historic collections, and more.

"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. "It's unfortunate but unavoidable. The library is committed to maintaining and building a collection that ensures our lasting position among the top research libraries."

Library staff will work closely with faculty, students and other library users to ensure that access to essential materials is maintained.

"We won't be cutting things wholesale," Saylor added. "We're examining our buying plans very carefully and are making strategic decisions that take the diverse needs of the various disciplines into account."

Library endowment payouts that support the acquisition of materials will be cut 15 percent as are endowments throughout the university. University-allocated funds for the purchase of materials will drop by 5.3 percent for the endowed colleges. Combined, this means about $944,000 (7.1 percent) will be cut from the materials budget for the endowed side of the library, which totaled nearly $13.5 million in the current fiscal year.

The statutory college libraries' reductions from last year's total allocation of $3.05 million are not yet finalized but are expected to be a slightly larger percentage than the endowed colleges are experiencing. The medical college library reductions from last year's total allocation of about $1.7 million are not yet determined but are likely to be about the same percentage cut as the endowed colleges are receiving. Additional cuts are expected in fiscal year 2011.

Similar reductions in budgets are affecting academic libraries across the country. Some of the cuts, however, will be mitigated by Cornell and other libraries' success in forming alliances with peer institutions. Inter-institutional collaboration is evident in the Borrow Direct consortium and interlibrary loan activities, which will continue apace. In addition, new partnerships are evolving to coordinate collection building and to share materials more efficiently. Collaborations with Google Books and other organizations to make materials available online are also ongoing.

Although publishers' prices normally rise about 8 percent per year, some publishers -- including JSTOR, LexisNexis and Annual Reviews -- recently announced they would not increase their prices for the coming fiscal year. The change came in response to active negotiations with Cornell and other libraries, which continue to work with other large publishers in the hopes they will follow suit.

"The economic crisis demands that all libraries, not just those at Cornell, find new and creative ways to meet the needs of scholarship," said Anne R. Kenney, the Carl A. Kroch University Librarian.

Gwen Glazer is a staff writer for Library Communications.