The Mansfield Library at the University of Montana is facing a steep cut of a possible $600,000 — again — and subscriptions and other resources are on the chopping block.
Provost Beverly Edmond said Friday that library collections may not have to absorb the entire amount. And Library Dean Shali Zhang said the cut has not been finalized and a review of subscriptions is underway.
But as proposed, the decrease could mean a 33 percent drop in support for library collections over five years, according to a memo from the Mansfield Library Faculty Librarians.
Such a reduction would push the collections budget down to $3.37 million from $4.87 million in the 2013 fiscal year, the memo said.
The memo also notes the funding gap between the collections budget at the Mansfield Library and Montana State University's Renne Library is 40 percent, with the latter at $5.7 million.
The proposed cut and pending cancellations come despite concerted calls from campus leaders in recent years to preserve library resources and the ability of faculty and students to conduct research at UM.
The Faculty Senate has adopted resolutions in support of the library, and Faculty Senate member Liz Ametsbichler said Friday the library already has been cut to "bare bones."
"If you're a serious university, you need to have a serious library," Ametsbichler said.
Since the 2013 fiscal year, the collection allocation at the library fell $360,000 one year, then $615,732, and last year, $224,000, according to the budget memo.
"This ($600,000) reduction follows four previous years of budget reductions and means a large amount of resources need to be canceled this year," said the memo. "The regular acquisition of books, via the core approval plan, has also been suspended for this fiscal year."
In an email, science librarian Barry Brown said the librarians created the memo to inform the Faculty Senate University Library Committee as well as other faculty who wanted more details about the cancellation process. Brown is professor and head of the library's Access and Collection Services Division.
"We recognize that the current proposed resource cancellations for FY18 could have a profound impact on student recruitment and retention, and the research, scholarship and productivity of faculty, students and staff across campus," the memo said.
Hans Martin, a graduate student senator, said he himself relies on the library for wildlife biology research. The cuts would affect scholarship at UM, and he said graduate student leaders plan to let other students know how to offer feedback on the proposed reduction.
"We will be expressing the concerns that we have," Martin said.
Library Dean Zhang said the library is gathering information to identify which journal subscriptions are necessary to retain. Faculty members have until Wednesday, Sept. 27, to comment on a proposed resource cancellation list.
"We are still in the process, waiting for feedback, and have not made any final decisions regarding the cancellation," Zhang said.
She said the library currently subscribes to 227 databases, 110 media, 93,723 digital/electronic serials, and 15,149 print serials.
The library aims to cut resources that have a high cost but low use, she said. However, she said the library will adjust the list based on comments, and if a faculty member notes a subscription is a "lifeline" for research or a grant, the library will keep it.
"We (will) still keep the core resources to serve learning and research needs while at the same time handling budget cuts," Zhang said.
UM is trying to shore up its budget and get spending in line with enrollment, and also get its personnel expenditures in line with a national benchmark. Personnel accounts for 89 percent of UM's budget, and higher education officials want to be closer to 75 percent.
Zhang said library users still have use of all subscriptions, and changes won't begin until January 2018 or later, depending on subscription cycles. She said she meets with the provost later in October about the cancellation list after addressing comments from faculty.
"Even in a difficult budget situation, we want to make sure we meet the needs," Zhang said.
Provost Edmond confirmed the reduction that has been pegged to the library is $600,000.
However, she said contrary to some misinterpretations, the money doesn't all have to come from collections. She said it also could come from university sources outside the library.
"We're really in the middle of looking at that issue in the broadest context," Edmond said.
She said she and the library dean discussed collecting information from faculty about the resources needed for their work. Edmond said she believed the request would be routine, and she did not anticipate the "level of angst" that resulted.
An initial evaluation shows some possible savings at the library that may not have been considered earlier, she said. The provost said she wants to work with the dean on those areas.
"Our preliminary reviews just from our level indicate that there may be some options that had not been fully considered by Dean Zhang, and we want to make sure that those are done, considered first, before we move into areas that would impact faculty research and student learning," Edmond said.
She said UM would keep resources if faculty note their research depends on it: "Obviously, we would not continue to move forward with termination of those subscriptions."
Ametsbichler, a professor of German and chair of the department of modern and classical languages and literature, said library cuts have been severe in recent years, and the library offers more than just books and journals.
Librarians also teach courses and help students negotiate academic information online, and students writing serious academic papers need the library to review secondary literature, she said.
"I just think it's a sad commentary when the library is cut," Ametsbichler said.
The cuts have been so deep, she said the staff at the library can barely take in new material. She used to be a book review editor and still receives resources she'd like to pass on to benefit students.
"I have a ton of books sitting on my shelf that are brand new (that) I can't give to the library because they have no one to process them," she said.
The memo from librarians notes the library has already implemented the obvious cost saving measures, such as not adding resources unless it cancels others of similar value. It also outlines the effects of budget cuts the past four years as follows:
- Significant cutting of databases and journals,
- Significant reduction of monograph and media acquisitions,
- No acquisition of new electronic journal backfiles, and
- Significant reductions of projects to digitize unique content the library holds.
Both the Faculty Senate and the Associated Students of the University of Montana have adopted resolutions in support of the library in recent years. The memo from librarians notes the strategic plan calls on UM to protect library resources as well.
"The new UM Strategic Vision (1.1) includes: 'Support library instruction and collections to meet undergraduate student, graduate student, and faculty research needs.' "