U Libraries face budget shortfalls

Libraries systemwide are adjusting resources while grappling with budget cuts.

Brian Edwards and Keaton Schmitt

As the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus library system continues to face cuts in funding, faculty members and students say uneven access across campuses can encumber research.

With more budget losses projected, the Twin Cities campus library system is looking for ways to save money. Among the solutions are continued cuts to some of its online resources — a move that could further impact access to the materials on coordinate campuses.

Due to less demand and smaller funding, libraries on the University’s coordinate campuses already have limited access to online databases and journals compared to the Twin Cities and Rochester campuses, some researchers say. 

“We are a small University,” said Michael Lackey, an English professor at the Morris campus. “If only eight people are going to use that database in a particular year, I don’t think it’s worth it.”

Although he said he supports how the University handles online database management, he said the system has issues.

The Twin Cities and Rochester campuses share access to sources and have access to nearly twice as many — almost 500 — online databases as University of Minnesota-Duluth. The Duluth campus has about 270.

The Morris campus has access to nearly 200 databases, while the Crookston campus has access to 145.

Online library resources could include databases, online journal packages and digital research collections.

Still, the University has a resource sharing system where campuses can request copies of a certain book, journal or other publication to be sent to another campus, said Owen Williams, director of library services at Crookston.

And another program allows researchers to petition up to three times a year for a $400 stipend to travel to another University campus to use its library resources, Lackey said.

Without the program, Lackey said he most likely wouldn’t be able to travel to other campuses for research.

But the additional steps and resulting paperwork can become cumbersome and time-consuming, said Cory Schroeder, vice chair of the Student Representatives to the Board of Regents and a student at the Morris campus.

To be able to access research materials more conveniently, Chris Butler, a teaching specialist at the Morris campus, said he still uses his login information from the University of California-Santa Cruz, where he completed his doctorate. 

And although a wait for requested material often takes a couple of days, Schroeder said it sometimes has taken up to a week to receive the materials.

“If we are trying to make the University of Minnesota as a system-wide entity — [both] research-producing and groundbreaking … I think we need to have the best resources for our faculty and staff to use,” he said.

While Lackey said researchers would like to have more resources, they understand the University’s budgetary limitations.

“We would bankrupt the University and waste a lot of taxpayer money if we made everything available to us on the Morris campus,” Lackey said.

Library cuts loom at Twin Cities

The Twin Cities campus’ own library system is projected to take a budget cut this year. In their current state, it will be difficult for the 13 campus libraries to shrink their budget, library leaders say.

Last fiscal year the library also ran into monetary trouble. While their budget was not decreased, their funding was not increased by the about $400,000 it needed to meet inflation.

The Twin Cities libraries were supplied one-time funds by Provost Karen Hanson to bridge the deficit but still were forced to cancel about $200,000 dollars in journals and databases, said Wendy Lougee, the University librarian.

The libraries need to continue making cuts to be within budget, she said.

“We will gradually be reducing journals and [book] commitments,” Lougee said.

It is difficult for the library to make cuts because online journal packages, the three largest of which alone make up 40 percent of the libraries’ budget, come as a package deal, she said. Any cuts in journals will result in the rest of the package’s price being raised, making cost reduction difficult Lougee said.

Last fall, the library was forecast to see a .73 percent reduction in its funding this year, Lougee said.

Last year, 15 library employees took voluntary layoffs, Lougee said.

It is difficult to calculate what would be cut without an increase in library funding, Lougee said at a University Senate Library Committee meeting last spring. At the meeting, she said that in general, every $100,000 budget reduction yields the cancellation of 75 journals, 1,300 print books or 885 e-books.

David Fox, chair of the University Senate Library Committee, said the committee plans to draft a letter of support for the library’s budget request. 

The committee did the same last year, Lougee said. 

“[Funding cuts] could lead to a direct degradation of access to resources for students, faculty and staff,” Fox said.