Looming deficit forces library to cut resources

by Melinda Rogers

University students and faculty members using the Institute of Technology library will have fewer resources to choose from unless the library’s deficit problem is resolved.
Over the past six years, library journal subscriptions have gradually been cut and recently proposed budget cuts might decrease subscriptions by another 25 percent — bringing the total number of subscriptions down 40 percent since 1990.
While subscription cuts affect all University libraries, cuts to IT library subscriptions occur more frequently because of the high cost of books.
Currently, University libraries purchase only one out of three science and technology books published because of their cost. For the price of a single chemistry book, the University can purchase a number of philosophy books. Cutting journal subscriptions is one way to avoid diminishing the book supply in the IT library.
“The fact is for the past six years journals have been canceled. The only way to stop going into deficit is to stop spending money on journals,” said James Cogswell, University library division head.
Cogswell and University librarian Thomas Shaughnessy said subscription costs for science, engineering, medical and technology journals have skyrocketed in recent years.
“The cost for subscriptions is going up at a terrific clip — eight to twelve percent (per year),” Shaughnessy said.
Popular scientific journals including “Gene” and “The European Journal of Pharmacology” have increased in price 65 percent and 50 percent respectively from 1995 to 1999.
Shaughnessy addressed the inflation issue at a November University Senate committee meeting and argued publishers are to blame for the costly journal subscriptions.
“Universities cannot keep paying these rates. The problem is that the faculty obtain grants, do research, and publish articles; the copyright is given away to the publisher, which then sells the articles back to the universities that provided them,” Shaughnessy said at the committee meeting.
“This is crazy and must stop. The question is how to break this cycle,” he added.
Members of the IT Library Committee have taken initiatives to prevent continued subscription cuts through letter-writing campaigns to the Faculty Consultative Committee and the Senate Committee on Finance and Planning.
“Professor Lipsky (chairman of the IT Library Committee) and other faculty are rightfully concerned about the budget issue,” Cogswell said.
“This will affect students adversely. It means that the total resources the University has to offer is diminished. This is not good for the students or the University,” he added.
IT Library Committee members are optimistic grants from the legislature will prevent journal subscription cuts for the library. Approximately four million dollars of the University’s 2001 financial request is allocated for libraries.
“(Subscription cuts) all depend on how the state treats us,” Shaughnessy said.
“President Yudof has been a hit with the Legislature and the governor. The Star Tribune reported that the state has more than a $2 billion surplus right now, so why wouldn’t we get our request?” he said.
While Shaughnessy and other IT Library Committee members continue to work on ways to prevent journal subscription cuts from the IT library, they will wait for the outcome of the University’s financial proposal to the legislature, hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.
“Typically the journals we subscribe to are the most expensive, scholarly ones. The group hit the most from this would probably be graduate students,” Shaughnessy said.
“But I’m an optimist,” he said, “I don’t think it will happen.”

Melinda Rogers welcomes comments at [email protected]