The need for funding in the ongoing struggle to balance print and digital library resources topped the discussion at the Board of Regents’ Educational Planning and Policy Committee meeting on Thursday.
In response to the growing financial needs of the library system, University librarian Tom Shaughnessy presented the Library Task Force Report to the committee. The report introduced the libraries’ $9 million biennial budget request.
Shaughnessy informed the regents of the dilemma the system currently faces: Because of the rising costs of materials, while the libraries continue to spend more, they actually buy fewer products.
Between 1986 and 1997, the cost of periodicals rose 169 percent. The holdings the library has amassed, Shaughnessy added, have deteriorated in breadth and depth during the past few years.
Shaughnessy said the growing trend toward digital and away from print resources has divided the University’s library system into two libraries. The 5.4 million volumes of paper comprise the library of the past; 100 online databases and 300 CD-ROM databases constitute the library of the future, he said.
This state of limbo between purchasing print and digital resources will likely continue for the next 20 to 25 years, Shaughnessy hypothesized.
Five years ago, 2 percent of the $8 million allocated for purchasing books and periodicals went to digital purchases. Today, 20 percent of each allocation goes toward digital purchases, he said.
“I don’t think there’s an agency on campus that’s changing as dramatically as our libraries,” Shaughnessy said.
While a portion of the request is intended to accommodate the change between physical and virtual library materials, Shaughnessy said the bulk of the request will go to staffing. In addition to training current staff members, library officials hope to add 20 people — such as systems librarians, digital media librarians and Web site developers — to their staff.
Shaughnessy also touted the University Libraries’ statewide accessibility, which corresponds with the University’s emphasis on connecting the school to the community at large, as a major factor in support of the libraries’ budget request.
About 20 percent of University library patrons are unaffiliated with the institution. Library officials have made accommodating this audience a central focus.
“There is no university library in the world that does more for the people of its region than we do,” Shaughnessy said.
Regent Maureen Reed said she found the library officials’ funding request reasonable within the context of the University’s $1.28 billion legislative budget request.
While the libraries’ need for funding will always exceed the available resources, the additional money is the only way to maintain a stronghold on current materials, she said.