In recent years, the Chester Fritz Library at the University of North Dakota (UND) has been in a funding situation that may sound familiar to many academic librarians. While the budget for the library has been flat since 2008, annual largess from the university’s discretionary funds has kept the library from having to eliminate services. This year, though, those supplemental funds are not available, meaning that even without a cut, the library faces a gaping hole in its funding.
The library has received $300,000 in supplemental funds each of the last three years, library director Wilbur Stolt told Library Journal, in an attempt to keep up with the rising cost of scholarly resources without actually raising the library’s base budget. This year, though, there was less discretionary funding to move around, and the library’s supplemental funding is a casualty.
It’s a particularly bad time for the library to be denied that $300,000 in funding, as it comes during a year when the library is changing money managers for its endowment. That means that $200,000 in library funds, which come from the endowment annually, will also not be available. Combined, UND’s libraries are looking at a total shortfall of half a million dollars compared to last year’s funding levels. At the very least, that will mean some of the library’s subscriptions to scholarly journals will come to an end, though which resources will be on the chopping block are yet to be determined.
“We are looking at the resources we license and subscribe to and looking at cost per use on those,” Stolt told Library Journal. “We will also be talking to the faculty and students about possible targets for reductions.”
Staff cuts are not on the table for now, Stolt said, though he did confirm that vacant positions at the library are not being filled in the hopes that those salary savings will make a dent in the budget shortfall. Going forward, though, nothing is off the table for cuts. “We have not lost staff this year, and that’s not a priority to solve this problem going forward,” said Stolt. “But we’ll have to wait and see.”
Speaking to local TV station WDAZ, UND Provost Tom Dilorenzo said that the library would not cut any resources that UND students are using regularly, but any lost subscriptions are likely to be noticed by at least some students and faculty, said UND history professor Gordon Iseminger. “As far as the impact is concerned, in the history department, we don’t have labs or flight simulators. We use the library, and we expect our students to use the library,” Iseminger told Library Journal. “Any reduction in funding has to have a deleterious effect.”
While the library is not anticipating an increase to their budget anytime soon, UND broke ground late last year on the UND Athletics High Performance Center with a predicted price tag of $15 million. While most of that money was raised from alumni and private donors, Iseminger said it did still demonstrate that UND’s priorities have begun to lean more toward athletics than academics. “We’re not a liberal arts institution anymore,” he said.