logo ULC Annual Report 1996-97



ULC analyzed the pressures faced on the operational and acquisition sides of our library budgets, both of which are experiencing erosion. On the operational side, campus libraries have been hit by downsizing, as have all university units. By July 1, 1998 11.5 FTEs must be cut from the libraries' permanent staff as a result of a downsizing exercise, to be accomplished through attrition. Some of these staffing shortfalls will be filled by student labor which, while bringing some cost savings, represents a long-term threat to the operational budget. Wages for student labor come from the operational budget rather than the state's payroll budget, and therefore wage increases are unfunded (unlike raises for permanent staff). Indeed, federally mandated increases in the minimum wage and the echoing effect that this will have on student pay scales in general will be a strain on library operational budgets, given the dependence of libraries on student labor in filling many positions (Campus libraries are one of the largest employers of student labor at the university). This alone could add $150,000 in unfunded labor costs. Assuming that the staff mix continues to shift away from permanent staff and toward student labor, the operational budget will continue to deteriorate. The constant pressure from students for expanded library hours could compound further the problems faced by the libraries' operational budget. Finally, as our collections undergo cutbacks and as knowledge of collections beyond the university becomes easier to obtain through the Internet, document delivery and inter-library loan are taking an increasing share of the operational budget.
On the acquisitions side, assuming that the Governor's budget remains as is and there is no additional input from other sources, by the end of the next biennium (1999) the libraries will have experienced eight years without an increase to their base budget and four years of no increase at all to library collection budgets. Among the top fifty university research libraries in the country, Wisconsin is singular in facing this situation. The UW-System budget for the coming biennium contained a request for a $5.2 million addition to base budget that would have funded increased acquisitions, licensing of electronic resources, and document delivery services. These funds were stripped out of the Governor's budget request to the legislature. UW-Madison's share of this would have been approximately $1 million per year. The public position of the university is that the budget proposed by the Governor is not as bad as two years ago, or as bad as it might have been. In view of this complacency, restoration of library funding by the legislature appears unlikely. As the budget now stands, UW campuses will not even have the flexibility to spend additions to the university budget currently earmarked for distance education or learning technology on library information resources. Given no other investment of resources into libraries, we can expect the losses in the next biennium to be severe.
The adverse effects resulting from the repeated absence of base-budget increases in the past are already apparent. UW-Madison library collections are currently in decline in comparison to regional and national peer libraries. While UW-Madison supports teaching and research in more Ph.D. fields than any other North American university (121 fields in 1994/95), extended periods of inadequate funding have already caused campus library material expenditures to drop from sixth among CIC and other peer institutions in 1990/91 to eighth in 1995/96. Without adequate investment into our library system we expect these negative trends to accelerate in the next biennium. Improvements in access and delivery systems within the CIC may mitigate some of the information access difficulties that we expect faculty and students will experience in the next biennium. But we believe that the types of cuts that will be necessitated in the UW collections will be unacceptable to many faculty and students.
Ironically, UW libraries will have to spend a larger share of the budget on inter-library loan and document delivery rather than on purchasing locally-based research collections in order to fill in the growing gaps in local collections.
From the vantage point of students, the most visible result of reduced acquisitions will be in the area of database licensing. Nearly all of Wisconsin's neighboring states currently have major new funding initiatives for statewide licensing of journal databases and reference resources; Minnesota, for instance, spends $8 million each year to purchase statewide licenses. By contrast, due to financial constraints the coming fiscal year will see a necessary discontinuation of some of the electronic services that have become available over the past several years through one-time seed money from the UW System, and few new resources will be licensed. The problem may become worse in the future. Many electronic sources of information that in the past have been provided free by government entities are now increasingly being made available by private vendors for a fee. For faculty and students who regard library acquisitions as a vital sign of institutional health, the cuts that are about to take place in library resources will be clear evidence of a weakened university.
Strong libraries will remain important components of a strong university. However, if Wisconsin libraries are to maintain their strength, they cannot do this without an adequate financial investment. There are limited possibilities for accomplishing this in lieu of an increase in base budget funding. The university can divert funds to the libraries from overhead funds or from other operations on an ad hoc basis, as it has done at times in the past. Of course, this would occur at a time when all facets of university operations are competing for a reduced pool of funds. Another possibility would be to call upon schools and colleges to contribute directly to funding high-cost items that their faculties consider necessary for the collection but which libraries can no longer afford to purchase given budgetary constraints. Again, this would occur at a time of significant contraction of resources within the university at large. Alternatively, funding adequate support for libraries directly out of tuition should be explored. Most UW students appreciate the importance of good libraries to academic quality-of-life, as evidenced by the fact that libraries consistently receive the highest rating among academic services in the UW-Madison annual undergraduate student survey. In a budgetary climate that all but assures steady hikes in tuition, students should insist that tuition increases be spent in part on library services, from which they benefit directly. Nevertheless, none of these short-term remedies address the fundamental issue that confronts our libraries today: prolonged flat funding by the state in the face of enormous escalation in the costs required to maintain a world-class research collection.
Over the long term the libraries must be allowed to build an endowment base comparable to that of peer institutions. Efforts in other universities have been successful when they have focused on the long run and have emphasized such instruments as planned giving and close integration with the capital campaigns of schools and colleges. When these principles have been followed, library fund-raising does not impinge upon other university fund-raising efforts but rather enhances overall university efforts. The University of Illinois, for instance, has raised an endowment of $12 million for libraries, while the University of Oregon recently completed an $18 million capital campaign for libraries.
Currently, there is no coordinated effort to solicit alumni contributions for our libraries. In 1995 the university received a total of $88 million in designated gifts through the UW Foundation; only $115,000 of this went to libraries. It is easier today to make a contribution through the UW Foundation to the School of Library and Information Sciences than it is to make a contribution to UW libraries. The University Library Committee strongly urges UW-Madison administrators and the University of Wisconsin Foundation to work closely with campus libraries to create an enhanced presence for libraries in development activities and to establish a significant presence for libraries in future capital campaigns. Without this, the long-term financial health of our precious library resource will be in jeopardy.

Go to: Previous page in report 1996-97 Report Index
Next page in report ULC home page

Electronic Library
Campus Libraries

Last modified July 7, 1998

University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries
Office of External Relations
Comments or questions to: Deborah Reilly , Coordinator