logo ULC Annual Report 1996-97



The University Library Committee (ULC) reviews, consults on, advises on, plans for, and receives reports and recommendations on performance of library services, automation, budget, administrative structure, allocation of resources, and administrative searches. Responsibility for keeping the faculty informed of major issues and for creating opportunities for the faculty to discuss priorities also falls to the committee (see Faculty Policies and Procedures 6.46 B).


The impact of budget cuts recently announced by the Governor cannot be fully assessed at this time. Nevertheless, the ULC believes it is important for the Faculty to keep in mind that the library challenges described below and throughout this document will be exacerbated greatly by current and impending reductions in the University's budget. In 1994-95, for example, the GLS, embarked on an initial series of austerity measures including freezing recruitment and hiring (student positions excepted), cutting capital equipment purchasing (computers and related equipment not excepted), cutting all non-essential supply expenditures, and holding back $30,000 of the collection budget. Such cuts would be implemented in the face of projected double-digit increases in the price of serials, an astonishing growth in student and faculty demand for automation services, increasing costs of Interlibrary loan and document delivery, and so forth. The impact of a new round of budget cuts on the quality of collections and services throughout our campus libraries can only be described as dire.
Among the issues the committee has grappled with in the time period covered by this report, four emerge as being of particular importance: (1) Maintaining as far as possible the excellence of the library collections and enhancing access to materials not held on campus; (2) Keeping up with the growth in demand for electronic services; (3) Seeking ways in which the complexity of the campus libraries can be simplified through consolidation of collections, staffs, or functions; and (4) Addressing intellectual property issues and their impact on libraries.
  1. Library Collections
    According to the Mellon Report on University Libraries and Scholarly Communication, UW--Madison library ranks as a "Public 1 university library" along with UC Berkeley, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Virginia. All these libraries have taken a shrinking proportion of the total university budget. Madison's percentage decrease between 1979 and 1990 (-4.81%) is smaller than most because it did not start high.
    Acquisitions have remained a remarkably constant percentage of total library expenditures, but these figures mask a reallocation from monographs to journals. The rate of increase in the acquisition of books virtually halted in the 70s and 80s, despite greater and greater numbers of titles being published each year (admittedly of varying quality) and retrospective collecting is essentially a thing of the past. For periodicals, the situation has become a crisis, particularly in science and social science journals; between 1970 and 1990, the cost of journals in chemistry and physics rose by a factor of 12 in current dollars, in psychology and business by a factor of 8. The Library Committee is deeply concerned at the steady decline in the purchasing power of library collection budgets with a concomitant decrease in the acquisition of library materials, the cancellation of subscriptions to scholarly journals, and the severely limited ability to start new subscriptions. In addition, the ability to meet the demand for electronic formats remains limited at a time when publishers of reference works and scientific journals are moving away from print formats and increasingly providing information only electronically.
    In June 1993, responses to a questionnaire that ULC sent to academic departments indicated great concern for "completeness of collections." That was ranked as a considerably more important priority than "physical accessibility" or "electronic sophistication." Although the definition of "completeness of collection" may vary among individuals, the shared underlying fear is that the necessary books and journals will not be available for teaching and research of a quality appropriate to a world-class research university. The costs of maintaining and developing research and teaching collections continue to present a serious challenge to Campus and UW System resources. Electronic access to research materials and Interlibrary Loan both have the potential to alleviate gaps in the collections, but bring with them the problems of purchasing and maintaining current hardware and software, licensing and copying costs, and the costs and difficulty of timely retrieval and delivery of materials associated with interlibrary loan systems.
  2. Electronic Services
    Electronic Services are the most rapidly-growing area of library use, with doubling times for the more popular services ranging from one year to one semester. So far, this astonishing growth, which is currently driven mainly by student demand, has been met without significant increases in budget or staff. This has been accomplished by taking advantage of the rapid increase in the capability of small computers, and by the efficiencies possible in a decentralized network. This can not continue for much longer, however, as the growth rate of usage is more rapid than that of hardware capabilities. User training is also a significant bottleneck, and the Distance Learning initiative promises to place additional burdens on the system.
  3. Library Consolidation
    An additional local challenge is the traditional decentralization of libraries on this campus. This gives many departments convenient access to a specialized collection and specialized technical help from their librarians. But the administrative decentralization and duplication of some acquisitions has economic drawbacks and poses certain policy problems. The Library Committee believes that consolidation and rationalization are worthy goals. Such consolidation need not entail the creation of a single central library, but progress might be achieved by combining small libraries that have similar collecting interests or centralizing specialized functions (such as Interlibrary Loan). Further consideration will be needed before specific recommendations can be made.
    Space continues to be a problem in almost all our libraries. In some, it is acute enough to be a space crisis. How we organize and locate our libraries will have an impact on the expansion and distribution of additional space for library materials. To this end, the ULC has recommended that its representative serve on the Campus Planning Committee.
  4. Intellectual Property
    The rise in the quantity of scholarly publishing is closely tied not only to the increase in original knowledge, but also to the stress being experienced by library collection budgets as they struggle to maintain core collections and access to materials not held on campus. The ULC believes that there are practical steps that can be taken by faculty and university administration to alleviate the "academic speedup" that has come to characterize research productivity nationwide and the exponential escalation in the cost of scholarly information that is threatening to strangle our libraries. Specific recommendations are contained in the Intellectual Property Subcommittee's summary report below. We would like to make the Faculty aware of the urgency of this problem and of the opportunity that presents itself at this time for the University of Wisconsin to become a national leader on the matter of intellectual property in academia.
The ULC invites comments from faculty on any of the issues discussed in this report, or other issues of particular concern to Faculty Senators and their constituents.

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