Mt. A library’s aquisitions budget cut by $50,000

Restricted endowment covers costs but favours only specific programs 

In response to the provincial tuition freeze and cuts to provincially mandated grants, Mount Allison’s budget has been cut and adjusted, including a $50,000 cut to the library’s budget for acquisitions.
“The acquisitions budget was one of many areas of the university that was cut,” said Dr. Karen Grant, Mt. A provost and vice-president academics and research. “The decision was taken that we would try to find places where we could make some cuts and try to retain the level of service that we could where possible.” Grant said it was anticipated that the library would be able to offset this loss to the operating budget due to what she described as a “healthy endowment funds.”
Head University Librarian Marc Truitt said that the university asked for help in responding to these events and circumstances, over which the university administration has no control. “In some ways, this budget cut is the least of my worries about the library’s budgetary situation,” said Truitt. “I’ve been able, mostly, to make up for that cut this year with income from other sources, mainly from some endowment income,” he said. Though endowment income contributes to library acquisitions every year, 80 per cent of these endowments are restricted, by request, to particular departments or subjects.
“If your department doesn’t happen to have dedicated endowment income, then in essence we are left with what we can scrape up in terms of either operating money or unrestricted endowment income,” said Truitt.
The cost of maintaining subscriptions to online journals and databases has taken a toll on the budget. “Virtually all of our operating money this year had to start off by going to pay the bills for the e-resources,” said Truitt. After e-resources are accounted for, whatever operating money is left over goes toward books, he said. However, prices of books also pose a problem: While they continually increase, the value of the Canadian dollar decreases, and most books are purchased in U.S. dollars. Still-rising costs in the face of a frozen budget have contributed to a year in which “we’re hardly buying any books,” said Truitt.
This has been felt by professors and students across campus. Dr. Christina Ionescu of the modern languages department said that she is beyond talking about her own needs as a researcher, as she has been unable to acquire basic materials like dictionaries for her classes. “With languages, it’s particularly important because a language changes constantly,” she said, “so you have to have those up-to-date materials in the library for students.”
Web of Science, a valuable database used extensively by the faculty of science, had to be given up this year as it was too costly, quoted most recently at $42,000 per year. Subscriptions to this database are being cancelled in institutions across Canada, said Truitt, as it has become unsustainable in the changing environment of scholarly publications. Though some sciences may have larger endowment funds available, he said, their materials tend to be priced more highly, so everyone is feeling the effects of these cuts.
“The librarians especially have been concerned about it because it frustrates them,” said Truitt. “They work hard to try to meet the teaching and research needs of the faculty and students here, so it’s frustrating to them when they can’t do that as well.”
One librarian, who has requested anonymity, said the librarians have had huge concerns about the changes. After years of a flat budget and cuts already having to be made to journal and database subscriptions, this cut to acquisitions is “gutting the library,” said this librarian.
The departments of psychology, political science, environmental studies, modern languages and sociology, among others, which have no designated endowment funds, will consequently be “getting very few new books this year.”
“The university has taken a very strong decision for many years that we will live within our means,” said Grant, “that we’re not going to saddle future generations with the debt that we incur because of the things that we do today.
“At the end of the day, I think that we’ve tried to do as well as we can under quite restrained circumstances,” said Grant.

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