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Serials and Collections

The Serials and Collections subcommittee found its mission in the charge of Library Collections Director Lou Pitschmann: "We are soon approaching the point beyond which the library resources of this campus will no longer support the level of teaching and research for which this university is famous. We can cut duplicates; we can modify collection profiles, and we can work closely with CIC and other consortia on cooperative collection development and license agreements, but there is a point(when all these management strategies will simply be inadequate to do much good."
It followed with four principles which lead to four proposed resolutions (to be acted upon by ULC in May 1996).
Principle 1. The faculty needs to be efficiently informed of the crisis in library acquisitions.
The efforts of the Libraries to provide faculty with information are much appreciated. We have already come a long way on this issue - for example, notices of intent to cancel journals are now routinely announced through the library's home page. But to be effective, since the faculty is bombarded with far too much information already, it must be available with minimum effort in the most efficient form. The faculty needs to decide what information is most useful and in what form it should be presented. It was agreed that cost-per-use data and the annual cost of a journal would be useful to faculty when considering sending in articles for publication. Data is showing that electronic use will NOT solve the problem of rising journal prices.

Resolved that the ULC request that the Library maintain a full-fledged University Library Committee web page on the Electronic Library with catchy "NEWS," "CRISIS" labels. Instead of "University Library Committee" found through the second level, this would be labeled "Current library policy issues of interest to faculty and students" on the first level. On this would be posted bulletins of immediate interest to the faculty and students concerning the library. Its content would be advised by the ULC.

Principle 2. We need to be able to recognize, and articulate, when the faculty's teaching and research is critically compromised by the lack of access to library materials.
This echoes the issue discussed last year: "what does it mean to maintain the 'integrity' of the collections?" Isolating the library factor from general erosion of support is difficult to ascertain. It should be noted that C. P. Snow's "Two Cultures" exist also in university library matters. The humanities and social sciences frequently feel underprivileged in comparison to the sciences when it comes to purchase of monographs and journals. The sciences depend largely on journal articles, which can be made available more easily through document delivery while monographs, the lifeblood of the humanities, are much more difficult to obtain if not already on campus. Faculty in the humanities therefore argue that cancellation of monographs is the worst thing that could happen to their ability to teach and do research.

It is the responsibility of this subcommittee, and the ULC, to ensure that the problem is seriously addressed before it becomes a crisis. To do this, we have to understand what the crisis will look like when it arrives. Is this when important material simply is not available or takes so long to get that it is impracticable to use? How long is too long? For the health sciences, "too long" is one or two days. The image of the brain surgeon holding a scalpel in one hand and a journal in the other is perhaps an extreme caricature, but what really is the role of a library in crucial and urgent situations where information is required immediately?

Resolved that the ULC invite faculty to document cases in which their work is being severely affected by the lack of library resources.

Principle 3. The ULC should determine the cost to the University of buying books and journals that do not go into the library.
The university spends money on buying books and journals that do not go into the library. These are bought on both 101 funds and project funds. Why could this money not be spent on libraries so the journals could be accessible to all? Probably some reference books (e.g. dictionaries) would have to be exempt, but these too could be put on line. Now many are coded under "supplies."

Resolved that the ULC ask University Accounting to start coding books and journal subscriptions specifically so that information on non-Library purchases of books and journals can be accurately gathered.

Principle 4. That the Wisconsin alumni be better informed about the situation with library acquisitions.
We assume the alumni are interested in keeping the university strong. We can reach the alumni with a positive approach to the problem-not so much that we are sinking under the burden, but that there are exciting new sources of information that our library needs to be able to keep Wisconsin at the forefront of research institutions. A positive article on building a balanced library of the future might could stir interest and help generate support. As an aside, it could be suggested that a donor could "purchase" a specific journal for a specific library, and a wish list could be provided.

Resolved that the ULC appoint someone to write an article on the role of university libraries for the Wisconsin Alumni Magazine as a possible means of generating support.

It is possible that wording of these resolutions may be altered by the ULC at its May 1996 meeting.

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Last modified July 7, 1998

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Comments or questions to: Deborah Reilly , Coordinator