Library cuts threaten research
As journal cancellations sweep across the US, scientists worry about how they will affect research
Earlier this month, New Mexico State University (NMSU) library announced the cancellation of over 700 journal and database subscriptions, the result of a perfect storm of rising journal prices and a slashed materials budget. It is the latest, but not the largest, in a procession of research libraries to chop, slash and hack their subscription lists in response to significant budget cuts. Now, tensions are rising as scientists speak out against library cuts and how they will affect research.
|Library at York University|
"The lifeblood of a university is its library, and cutting library resources is like cutting off oxygen to the brain," said linkurl:Robert Buckingham,;http://www.usask.ca/sph/faculty_staff/our_faculty/Robert-W.-Buckingham.html a long-time epidemiologist at NMSU and now dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Saskatchewan. "Without this lifeblood, the university will falter and fail."
The economic downturn is hitting libraries and hitting them hard. A linkurl:2009 global survey;http://www.ebrary.com/corp/collateral/en/Survey/CIBER_survey_2009.pdf of 835 libraries in 61 countries found that nearly one-third of academic libraries saw their budgets reduced by 10 percent or more that year. And journal subscriptions are taking the brunt of that loss: The University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) cancelled linkurl:118 print and 115 online subscriptions;http://www.library.ucsf.edu/help/scholpub/cancel/2010 for 2010, as well as several databases (including linkurl:Faculty of 1000 Medicine,;http://f1000medicine.com/ publisher of The Scientist
). Last spring, the University of Washington announced cuts of linkurl:1,600 print and electronic journals,;http://www.lib.washington.edu/dean/budget.html databases, and microforms. The University of Virginia library sliced linkurl:1,169 journals,;http://www2.lib.virginia.edu/press/budgetfaqs/2010JournalsnotRenewed.pdf the University of Arizona downsized by linkurl:650 print and electronic titles,;http://www.library.arizona.edu/spendingReduction/ and Georgia State University cut 441 and is now considering the fate of linkurl:another 1,092.;http://homer.gsu.edu/journalcancellation/list.php The list goes on and on.
linkurl:NMSU's journal cuts,;http://nmsu.libguides.com/content.php?pid=67080&sid=495301 which also included the axing of over 1,300 Springer journals due to discontinued consortium bundles, resulted from the loss of several external revenue streams. The library once received 5 percent of research overhead funding, but two years ago this was slashed to 2.5 percent without an explanation from the administration, said Collection Development Coordinator and associate professor linkurl:Susan Beck.;http://nmsu.libguides.com/profile.php?uid=3989 The library was also required to return $1.19 million to the administration this year that it had saved to pay for subscriptions. The library has asked for the funding to be restored, but has not heard a positive response back, said Beck. "We're working on it, but I don't see much hope right now."
Other universities have been more responsive. In Louisiana, librarians panicked this summer when the state Board of Regents announced the end of funding for linkurl:LOUIS,;http://appl003.lsu.edu/ocsweb/louishome.nsf/index/ the statewide academic library network that provides journal and database access to some 30 institutions, including Louisiana State University (LSU). On a linkurl:Facebook page;http://www.facebook.com/pages/SAVE-LOUIS-LSU-LIBRARIES-ELECTRONIC-DATABASE/134995406519527?ref=search dedicated to saving LOUIS, students and faculty alike expressed their outrage at the loss of access. "Oh, please please please save LOUIS," wrote one LSU graduate psychology student. "I'm funded by a large federal research grant from the Department of Education. We need to prove we have adequate research resources in order to secure funding.... I need the EBSCO databases like I need air or water!"
To retain the network -- some 63,000 full-text electronic resources -- LSU and other libraries increased their contributions to LOUIS. LSU is now paying double, a total of $450,000 per year, thanks to the university administration stepping in with the needed funds. "I don't know where they found the money, what bucket they got it out of, but we're just very grateful we didn't have to take it from our library budget," said linkurl:Nancy Colyar,;http://www.lib.lsu.edu/faculty/Colyar/index.html assistant dean of libraries at LSU. Still, even with LOUIS in place, the university has been trimming its own journal list month to month. "Basically it's a continuous process for us," said Colyar. "We just keep a running list with a total dollar amount and if we need to cut a dollar amount, we decide where to chop the list."
The biological sciences may be particularly hard hit this year, as they are among the most expensive journals subscriptions, averaging $2,035 per year, according to Library Journal's
linkurl:Periodicals Price Survey 2010;http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6725256.html -- significantly more than the $1,287 for the average general science title.
In lieu of online access to specialty journals in their field, scientists can try to use interlibrary loan, said linkurl:Vincent Gutschick,;http://gcconsortium.com/academic_page/index.html an emeritus biologist and library liaison for the biology department at NMSU. But it's not a perfect fix. "When you're under pressure to put together a grant proposal, even if you get that loan within three days as a PDF, it could really adversely affect putting the proposal together," he said.
What's more, due to copyright laws, a library can only borrow five articles from a given title per year before they have to purchase each article directly from the journal, said Beck. A single article in the Journal of Sound and Vibration,
one of the recently cancelled subscriptions at NMSU, costs $39.95. Last year, the library had over 1,000 uses of the journal.
If more and more scholars turn to interlibrary loan, libraries might not be able to support the demand, said Beck, who noted libraries might start charging for the service or restricting it to high priority user groups, such as professors and doctoral candidates.
It's time for faculty to stop being complacent about library cuts and put pressure on their administration to increase resources, said Buckingham, or soon they'll feel the consequences. According to the 2009 global survey, most libraries expected to be in worse financial straits by 2011. And not long after, in 2012, stimulus funding will expire. "What [the state government] is telling us is that next year is the cliff, and we'll all be looking over the cliff and maybe some will be diving off," said Colyar.
"With a diminished library, you have a diminished university," said Buckingham. "It's that simple."
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:Support for UC-Nature ban;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/57491/
[10th June 2010]*linkurl:Upping access to open access;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/55489/
[5th March 2009]*linkurl:Libraries 2.0;http://www.the-scientist.com/2008/11/1/82/1/
[1st November 2008]