February 15, 1999
Report to the Faculty/Student Senate and Request for Endorsement of Resolution in Support of
the FY2000 Library Budget
Senate Committee on the Library
January 13, 1999
A common point of pride at UIUC is the size, quality, and depth of the University Library. It is common for administration, faculty, and students alike to brag that we are the "third best academic library in the US." At one time, this was true. It no longer is. Our current acquisitions budget puts us 19th according to the Association of Research Libraries (ARL); total budget was 15th in the ARL listings. We were second in library investment in the country, behind Harvard, in 1967. The effects of restricted budgeting on both collection size and personnel numbers have reached a level of intense stress. While budget alone is not the explanation for the difficulties pointed out by last year's Task Force on the Future of the Library, budget is certainly a major component. We must decide whether we wish to have the library which we have believed for so many years was an important aspect of scholarship at Illinois, or whether we are satisfied with mediocrity in collection size and access.
These issues are being studied by the Senate Committee on the Library (SCL), the Library Strategic Planning Committee (LSPC), and the Campus Library Policy Committee (CLPC). While this report comes from SCL, there has been intensive consultation with the other committees, both via their respective chairs and also through discussions with committee members. We have shared minutes of meetings and in many instances attended each other's meetings. While there are subtle differences in viewpoint among members of all these committees, one point is universally agreed: we desire, and believe that the rest of the campus desires, that the excellence of our library should be part of its future as well as its past. This report and proposed resolution for adoption by the Senate speaks mainly to budgetary issues. We believe that the additional structural evolution that is needed in the library can only succeed if the budget is adequate.
A number of themes run through our assessment of both the departmental libraries and central library operations:
1.At one time, this library was one of the gems of Western Civilization.
2.In concert with the faculty and students of this campus, the Librarians desire to rebuild this institution to its former glory.
3.Inadequate budgets in recent decades have caused inadequate levels of acquisitions, collection preservation, and user services.
4.Despite these constraints, the Library is still an extremely valuable institution, with dedicated faculty and staff and a collection which remains astonishingly strong, considering the accumulated budgetary strains.
5.Without massive infusion of resources, we have reached the "end of the line" in our ability to even approximate a first-rate library, much less regain our pre-eminence.
Many ways can be imagined by which one may devise a budget for a library. At least one of these is to ask the librarians, who are most acquainted with the collection, the users, and the mechanics of that library's operation, what resources they believe are needed to satisfy the needs of their constituencies. Such a survey has been conducted during October and November, 1998 for the Urbana-Champaign campus of the University of Illinois. While incomplete, rushed, and not critically evaluated, this survey nevertheless paints as accurate a picture as one can readily obtain of the opportunities and limitations of the various parts of the Library system on this campus. The data and commentary may be found in their entirety at (http://www.chem.uiuc.edu/library/library.htm).
In the opinion of our Librarians, to serve the faculty and students on this campus at a level competitive with our peers, our acquisition budget (including both temporary and permanent funds) should be increased approximately 44%, just to adequately serve the current expectations of this campus. The overall budget, including these acquisitions, should be increased 37%. Considering the FY99 budget, this would give us a total budget of 33.7 million dollars, compared to the actual budget of 24.5 million. This is not unreasonable -- in FY97, the University of Michigan Libraries spent 37 million dollars. The percentage increases listed in this paragraph are in fact conservative. They inadequately fund desperately-needed preservation efforts, largely ignore additional space needs, and are only targeted at making each of our branch libraries competitive with their qualitative peers. When asked for an "optimum" budget, defined as one which would return the UIUC Libraries to being the best in their respective fields in the US, the budget increases suggested soared to 87% for acquisitions, 72% overall. These latter figures are so daunting that the remainder of this summary deals only with the "realistic" requests. This should not be taken as an endorsement of mediocrity. Rather, simply achieving an adequate level of support and sufficient staff that we are at the same level as other strong research libraries is a pre-requisite to higher aspirations. For the past 20 years, the library budget has been steadily shrinking with respect to the growth of the literature and information demands of the campus. Repairing this damage will start us on a trajectory towards what we believe our goal should be: the third best collection at any research university library in the US (behind only Harvard and Yale).
In order to return to an adequate budget over a 5 year span beginning in FY2000, it is necessary to make up the 37% (overall) and 44% (acquisition) shortfalls and also provide for ordinary inflationary needs over this time span. If, as one may hope, means to limit the soaring cost of journal literature can be found (the pricing policies of commercial publishers provide little encouragement for such hopes), any marginal funds released can be productively used for preservation. The acidic sizing in materials published between about 1890 and 1970 is leading to the disintegration of much of the collection. While grant funds and targeted fund-raising may be helpful in this endeavor, internal, stable funding will be needed both to sustain this massive effort and to provide matching funds for externally-obtained resources.
Assuming that acquisitions costs for existing materials will inflate at 6% per annum (actually less than has been typical of periodical literature for the last 15 years) and that all other costs will inflate at 3% per annum, closing the budget gap will require that base funding for acquisitions increase by $1,400,000 IN EXCESS OF INFLATION EVERY YEAR through FY2004. All other budget items must be supported to the extent of $1,400,000 IN EXCESS OF INFLATION EVERY YEAR through FY2004. This will result in an acquisitions budget of $19,900,000 and a total Library budget of $45,100,000 at that time. This is a mean increase averaging a bit over 4 million dollars per annum. It is an expenditure of just over $1,100 for every faculty member and student in the University. There will still be space, preservation, and budgetary pressures if we proceed at this level. Technological advances in providing information will be an important, but not exclusive nor even dominant, aspect of the Library. Anything less will see disintegration of parts of the existing collection, inadequate procurement of new resources, continued demoralization of the Library staff, and mediocrity in the Library's service to the campus, the state, the nation, and indeed its clientele throughout the world. If, as many believe, a University can be no better than its Library, we can not afford to spend less.
Before using these global numbers to set policy, the following comments should be noted:
1.For various reasons, some Library units have not yet (as of 1/13/99) responded to the survey,
2.Consortial arrangements among library branches on campus and between this campus and others may (and in some cases should) modify the numbers presented,
3.External funding may be obtained for some aspects of a non-recurring nature, and
4.Some aspects of collection development have been identified as being most efficaciously developed centrally rather than through direct funding of branch libraries.
One should also review the known methodological flaws inherent in this survey (listed in the web version of this report). In some sense, the information from the survey fills a vacuum; improvements in this information base should be actively sought.
If the reader believes the case for massively increased budgets to be overstated, he or she can find comfort only in the requests of the Illini Union Reading Room and the University High School Library, both of which have nearly adequate budgets currently. Those believing that technology is a panacea would be well-advised to look at the costs of the Digital Library Initiative. If the pain of watching the collection fall apart is inadequately acute, the discussions of the Map and Geography Library and Geology Library, together with the Rare Book Room and Newspaper Library, should sharpen the agony. Some have maintained that the Law Library has been sheltered from pressures elsewhere on campus. Its needs in fact are comparatively modest -- only a 24% increase (focused on staffing) is required to reach realistic service levels. And those who are committed to excellence in undergraduate education should read the writeup on the Undergraduate Library. EVERY branch of the Library (with the two exceptions noted) is under some level of stress, with personnel issues as daunting as preservation and acquisition. Reallocation is not the answer -- unless one chooses to ransack one library to support another. This is hardly the way an educational institution should treat accumulated knowledge.
II. Resolution (for action/endorsement)
Whereas the Library is the intellectual life-blood of the University and
Whereas the Library has been grievously underfunded for the last two decades, so that it can no longer fulfill its expected and desired function, and
Whereas a recent survey of the Library indicates that, to be funded at an adequate level, the annual budget of the Library should be approximately 45 million dollars per annum by FY2004,
Be it resolved that sufficient annual permanent increments be provided to the Library so that by FY2004 the Library will be able to adequately serve the scholarly needs of its constituencies.
Alexander Scheeline, Chair
Robert W. Wedgeworth (ex officio)