By Shannon Vicic
Financial cutbacks at the UI library were the topic of discussion by a committee of the whole at the Sept. 22 meeting of the Urbana-Champaign Senate.
According to university librarian Robert Wedgeworth, there is a growing gap between the cost of library materials and the funding available for purchasing those materials.
Subscription prices for printed journals have escalated rapidly in recent years, with some journals experiencing double-digit inflationary price increases annually. For example, a subscription to the journal Brain Research cost $6,000 in 1992, but will cost $15,000 in fiscal year 1998, he noted.
"If we were to have the same journal collection in 1997 that we had the year that I arrived, 1992, it would mean adding approximately $2 million to the budget for serials alone," Wedgeworth said.
At the same time, the library also is faced with the need to develop and support a more advanced technological infrastructure.
"Many of the newer materials are coming out in electronic formats. We have to have the technological infrastructure to provide access to those materials," Wedgeworth said.
Next summer, the library will replace its current online catalog, which is nearly 20 years old, with a new statewide, integrated library management system. More than 200 new Pentium workstations have been installed in the library in preparation for the new system.
The combined impact of rising material costs and the expensive technological upgrades has taken a serious toll on the library's budget. At the end of fiscal year 1997, the library had a deficit of $800,000.
"Our budget isn't adequate to chase those kinds of increases in materials costs and at the same time invest in our technological infrastructure," Wedgeworth said.
To cope with the deficit, the library has taken a number of steps, including reducing fund budgets to their fiscal year 1996 levels. That funding decrease has led to a reduction in the journal and periodical subscriptions purchased by the library.
Adjusting to the financial cutbacks will require some behavioral changes on the part of the library's patrons, Wedgeworth said. Users will have to rely more heavily on online abstracts and indexes as well as interlibrary borrowing programs.
During the fall semester, Wedgeworth has scheduled several discussion sessions with faculty members to help provide them with an understanding of the issues the library is facing and to seek their advice on strategies for coping with those issues.
Faculty members interested in attending those discussion sessions can find a schedule posted on the World Wide Web at http://www.library.uiuc.edu/announce/facmeet.htm.
Provost Larry Faulkner announced that he and Senate Council Chair Richard Schacht are developing a committee to study the future of the university library. (See story at right.)
Faulkner also addressed the question of whether the university's budgeting procedures have been responsive to the library's needs.
"The campus has reallocated more faithfully to the library than to any other thing that was to be financed from the DeVor money," Faulkner said.
The library has received $1.5 million of the $2 million in funds anticipated from the DeVor reallocation plan.
One issue that the committee is likely to study is whether the library should receive additional funding.
"If we are to place more resources in the library's hands, and we are looking at reallocating additionally, that's an issue that has consequences that need to be debated by people who understand the full dimensions of the trade-offs," Faulkner said.
John Garner, a professor of architecture, expressed concern that the emphasis on building a more advanced technological infrastructure was coming at the expense of the library's collection of printed materials.
But Wedgeworth said that the issue wasn't one of technology versus printed materials because investments needed to be made in both areas.
Essentially, the university must operate two libraries in one a traditional library that serves faculty members and students who rely heavily on printed materials as well as a library of the future, which provides a technological infrastructure that will support the acquisition of electronic information resources, he said.
Psychology professor Emanuel Donchin said that faculty members need to take action to curb the rising prices of scholarly journals, possibly by refusing to publish in journals whose prices are too high.
"We have to realize that we play a role in determining the cost of these library materials because we collectively, as academics, participate in publishing in journals whose price is completely unjustified."
Student senator Jamie Berman asked administrators to consult with students before considering any kind of fee to bail the library out of its financial difficulties.
Faulkner said that the university currently was looking to the state for funding, and he didn't think a fee was likely, although he couldn't predict what might happen in the future.
Faculty senators who miss senate meetings won't be kicked out of the senate. A proposal that would have amended the senate's bylaws to eliminate non-participating senators was voted down by the senate.
The issue was a holdover from the final meeting of the previous academic year.
In recent years, poor attendance at senate meetings has resulted in forced adjournment of several meetings because of quorum calls. A recent amendment to the senate constitution, which reduced the number of senators needed for a quorum to 100, has not solved the problem.
Under the proposed amendment, a senator who missed two consecutive senate meetings during an academic year and failed to notify the senate clerk prior to those absences would receive a letter automatically resigning the senator from his or her seat, unless the senator contacted the senate clerk within 14 days.
Senators could be reinstated by contacting the senate clerk, but could be reinstated only once in any senate term.
When the proposal came up for discussion, Alfred Kagan, a professor of library administration, said that rather than eliminating non-participating senators, the senate needed to look at the underlying issue, which is why senators aren't coming to meetings in the first place.
"Since they're just approving documents already on the agenda, they probably don't think it will make a difference [if they come]."
Kagan suggested that the senate needed to do some outreach to make senators aware of the issues addressed in the senate. He also said that it was the responsibility of individual departments, and not the senate, to take action when their representatives don't attend meetings.
But H. George Friedman, chair of the University Statutes and Senate Procedures Committee, said that the senate has tried many methods for improving attendance, including notifying individual departments when their senators aren't attending meetings, and nothing has worked.
A vote was taken on the proposal, and it failed by a margin of 86 to 38.
Campus Budget Oversight Committee
The senate did not vote on an item that would have confirmed the membership of the Campus Budget Oversight Committee (CBOC), which is the successor of the Budget Strategies Committee.
The CBOC advises the Provost on the distribution of the planned budget allocation.
Donchin moved that the item be sent back to the Senate Council so that the senate could be given an opportunity to discuss the matter.
He objected to the appointments on the grounds that the senate had not been provided with copies of the revised provisions in the Framework for Budget Reform that would govern how CBOC appointments would be made.
In a committee-of-the-whole discussion of the Framework for Budget Reform during the previous academic year, several senators had expressed concern about how academic units on campus would be represented on that committee.
The senate voted 62 to 44 to refer the item back to the Senate Council.
In Other Business
The Annual Meeting of the Faculty was held at Foellinger Auditorium on Sept. 24. At that meeting, Chancellor Michael Aiken provided an update on the initiatives in the Framework for the Future, the strategic plan for the university. (See accompanying Campus Report for the full text of Aiken's remarks.)
And in a reprise of presentations to the Board of Trustees at its Sept. 11 meeting, President James Stukel presented his vision of the primary strategic issues affecting the future of the university, and Faulkner outlined the priorities of the fiscal year 1998-99 budget request.