logo ULC Annual Report 1994-95


Serials and Collections Subcommittee

The basic dilemma facing library collections continues to be the effects of double-digit inflation in acquisitions costs, the growth in materials published (in traditional print formats as well as electronic form), and acquisitions budgets that cannot keep pace and face the threat of substantial cutbacks. Nevertheless, ARL statistics since 1989/90 indicate that UW-Madison has maintained a steady ranking of approximately 14th nationwide in the number of current serials received, in spite of significant cancellations of journal titles. At the same time, in the number of monographs purchased our ranking eroded in recent years (from 5th in 1990/1991 to 8th in 1992/1993). This was due in part to reallocation of acquisition monies from monographs to serials in order to deal with larger increases in serials prices. This past year, however, the proportion of the budget allocated for serials expenditures was stabilized, so that monograph purchases did not suffer to the same extent as in the past. The library system has come to manage serial costs better by looking carefully at faculty priorities and cost/usage ratios. In the past year, for instance, 1194 journal subscriptions were cancelled, two-thirds of which were unique titles in the collection. The cancellation process was facilitated in large part because the library had better information than in the past at its disposal, enabling it to target expensive but low-use subscriptions. For the past several years, the library has made available to faculty comprehensive lists of journals slated for cancellation, usually through a letter to department chairs. This year, for the first time, the list of journal titles targeted for cancellation was placed on the WiscWorld gopher, allowing easy access by any faculty member according to subject category.
Speedy access to materials off-campus is now widely recognized by libraries around the country as a substitute for ownership in a time of tight budgets. Nevertheless, the means for delivering these materials have not kept pace with the growing demand and with anticipated future needs. Commercial document delivery has been a relatively cost-effective and rapid alternative for a select group of users (engineering, business, and the sciences, in particular). In other fields, however, commercial document delivery remains unavailable or is rarely used, in part due to vendors' inability to supply articles from journal back files, a broad range of foreign publications, and a variety of fields in the humanities, area-studies, and some social sciences. Users working in these fields must rely on cumbersome interlibrary loan mechanisms, and slow delivery of material is a hindrance to instructional and research activity. Use of interlibrary loan for access to off-campus materials has increased by 23.4 percent over the last two years. The average turnaround time in 1993/94 in Memorial Library was 23 days. The committee is exploring ways to increase the speed in Memorial Library of delivery of off-campus material, including streamlining internal interlibrary loan operations, offering a special rush service, developing bilateral collecting and sharing arrangements with regional libraries, and the creation of an automated "patron-initiated" interlibrary loan program jointly with the University of Minnesota. The library is also participating in an ARL- sponsored digitalization pilot project in Latin American Studies.
In addition, the subcommittee is reviewing library collection goals and selection criteria, ways in which the library could be better prepared to anticipate future teaching and research needs of users, issues of preservation of materials, and ways of improving faculty-selector communications.
Other issues that have been placed on the subcommittee's agenda include: the preservation of library materials; how the library is dealing with the growing costs of foreign acquisitions; what are the components of the collections budget (ownership, access, binding, etc.) and how have they been evolving over time; journal cancellations and their effects; and continued monitoring of how Wisconsin's collections are faring relative to other CIC institutions.

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