December 14, 2017

New Mexico State Must Cut Materials Budget by 27%

By Norman Oder

Focus on journals, says library dean, and consider cost per use

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  • Cost increases and revenue losses
  • Positions and salaries frozen
  • Decisions coming by May

Facing a “perfect storm” of cost increases and revenue losses, New Mexico State University (NMSU), Las Cruces, aims to cut its materials budget next year by 27%, or $575,000 and is doing so via a notably public process.
 
Factors to be considered include each title’s cost, cost per use, uniqueness, programmatic importance, and vendor licensing restrictions. In the end, says library Dean Elizabeth Titus, NMSU must make decisions in light of its mission as the only land-grant university that is both a Carnegie-designated high research institution and a Hispanic-serving institution. 

Contributions to the cuts
page on the library’s LibGuides site adapts a February 8 memo from Titus, which cites the components of the "perfect storm", including price increases for serials and databases beyond inflation; a 50% cut in indirect cost funding (research overhead) that has supported the materials budget; decreased state funding for higher education; a decline in library endowments for collections; and decreased state bond funds.

The collections budget represents 44% of the library’s  overall budget, with 37% going to salaries and 20% to operating costs. Of the materials budget (left), only 16% goes to books, with 83% to serials and e-resources—the cut will be applied to the latter.

Tough times
The cut in materials, Titus told LJ, would have been inevitable even without overall university budget cuts. “It was just inflation catching up, and alternative funding sources disappearing,” she said.

Salaries have been frozen for two years and the university’s contribution to employees’ retirement plans has been reduced—essentially, a salary cut. Last year, the library experienced a 2.5% permanent reduction in its base budget, then faced a one-time cut of 4%. Meanwhile, the library is bracing for the impact of a proposed 12% cut for the university as a whole, which could impact the library disproportionately.

“I have four positions open—one is my acquisitions librarian,” she said, but all positions are frozen. “The challenge is, how do we, organizationally, have the flexibility to move people around and readjust. I’m not worried about the cut; I’m worried about the consequence of the cut.”

Priorities
The institution, she said, is in the process of “program prioritization,” she said. “We cannot be everything to everybody."

She said libraries must be “transitioning to the e-environment” and cited the library’s vision statement which cites its “leadership role in collecting, organizing, managing and enhancing access to the University’s intellectual capital.”

“Our institution wants to protect human resources over things,” she said, indicating that cuts have been targeted, not across the board.

Making decisions on journals
Within a week, NMSU hopes to post cost per use data on journals. For at least one journal, it turns out, the cost per use is $2014. “You can’t go by any one strict metric,” Titus acknowledged,  “but we have to do better than the professor saying it’s critical to their field.”

According to an FAQ, the library has moved 229 titles to electronic only and will continue this migration going forward. Slightly more than half (50.79%) of the serials subscriptions are electronic only. The rest is divided between print only (36.48%), print including online (11.02%), print plus online (1.54%) and mixed media including print (.17%).

Look to the LibGuides page, managed byProfessor & Collection Development Coordinator Susan E. Beck, for updates. Final decisions on cancellations will be made by library subject specialists in early May.

Read more Newswire stories:

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New Mexico State Must Cut Materials Budget by 27%

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