Libraries evolve as U balances books

Recent cuts have had adverse effects on operations while the collections budget remains untouched.

Library assistant Tim Engelstad works the evening shift at Walter Library Tuesday night.  The 2010 English graduate recently started working full time for the campus library.

Chelsey Rosetter

Library assistant Tim Engelstad works the evening shift at Walter Library Tuesday night. The 2010 English graduate recently started working full time for the campus library.

by Adam Daniels

Tim Engelstad is a 2009 University of Minnesota alumnus who started working at Walter Library his sophomore year.
After graduating, he received a full-time position working as a library assistant during the night shift. Since then, University administration has handed down cuts that have made sustaining the libraries much more difficult than when Engelstad began his work there.
âÄúEverybody that goes to the U that âĦ works here knows there are cutbacks,âÄù Engelstad said.
The University Libraries budget for fiscal year 2010 was about $36.3 million, a reduction of more than $1 million from the previous year. Cuts have had an adverse effect on operations, which include everything from staff, technology and equipment, facilities maintenance and supplies.
âÄúCompared to âĦ public university peers that weâÄôre looking at, we now have the smallest size staff of any of those,âÄù University librarian Wendy Lougee said. âÄúIt becomes very hard to [keep] the doors open and have services for people if there arenâÄôt people there.âÄù
The librariesâÄô collection budget, however, was left untouched.
âÄúProbably some of it has to do with [the fact that] itâÄôs very hard to make up ground once you start cutting the collection,âÄù Lougee said. âÄú[But] at some point it does become unrealistic.âÄù
Ninety-one percent of the library budget is determined through a âÄúweighted head countâÄù system. Faculty and graduate students equal one head, upper division undergraduates equal three-quarters of a head and lower division undergraduates equal half a head.
The way the weighted heads are distributed across the colleges determines how much libraries will receive from each one.
When spending that money, 38 percent âÄî or $14 million âÄîmakes up the collection fund. Purchasing subscriptions for journals, which are mostly electronic, takes up $11 million of that.
Lougee said itâÄôs difficult to figure out a budgeting system thatâÄôs fair to different fields of study, especially since materials in the sciences cost a great deal more.
A scientific journal subscription can easily cost $20,000 and inflate at 6 percent annually.
Librarians âÄî who each have a subject discipline assigned to them âÄî develop collections over time.
Lougee said they try to anticipate the direction in which programs are going.
âÄúIf you think about science and engineering, so much of the last five years has been directions that have the word âÄòbioâÄô in front of them,âÄù she said. âÄúChanges in disciplines occur all the time.âÄù
Special collections in libraries are often acquired through private giving. In fiscal year 2010, 1,400 donors gave more than $1.7 million to University Libraries.
A collection of Asian art and culture books, a folktale series of picture books and European photochroms were among some of the collections added last year.
âÄúOne of things that distinguishes us from the rest of the [University] is that weâÄôre one of the few entities that has to serve the whole campus and has to be sensitive to all these discipline differences,âÄù Lougee said.