UC Berkeley library to cut $1 million, slashing scholarly resources, journal access

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The UC Berkeley Library is undertaking a $1 million reduction in expenditures for fiscal year 2019, a move that will primarily impact student and faculty access to scholarly resources.

The resources that will experience cuts include subscriptions to journals and book purchases. The cuts are a result of the increasing cost of these resources coupled with the decreasing funding the campus is receiving from the state, according to University Librarian Jeffrey MacKie-Mason.

Because there are cuts each year, the library staff is used to planning for the readjustment of resources each fiscal year, MacKie-Mason said. Typically, however, the cuts do not impact services for students and faculty.

“We have focused on improving efficiency (and) administrative services, for example,” MacKie-Mason said. “But this year, we couldn’t find enough of that sort, so we had to cut stuff to students and faculty.”

The decision to make these cuts was publicized to campus faculty through a campuswide email from Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Alivisatos.

“We cannot spend an ever increasing share of campus funds on journals and books unless we are willing to spend less in other areas (such as faculty compensation),” Alivisatos said in the email. “Thus, we continuously review, and necessarily reduce, our licensing of journals and acquisition of books.”

The cuts will affect all departments across campus, according to Mackie-Mason.

In the 24 hours after Alivisatos’ email was sent, faculty from the School of Public Health created a spreadsheet for student and faculty input, which includes a list of resources they want to save and the rationale for keeping them.

According to School of Public Health associate professor Amani Nuru-Jeter, students and faculty have expressed concern that a loss of certain resources would have a negative impact on their research. Some subject areas students and faculty are advocating to save resources for include pediatrics, diabetes and internal medicine, Nuru-Jeter said.

“My research is the intersection of education, sociology, and health services, thus the cuts would impact me at multiple angles,” health policy doctoral student Jung Kim said in an email. “My educational resources require content from an interdisciplinary lens, which unfortunately is not how content is published. … I can’t see how I would not be significantly impacted.”

Associate professor of history Victoria Frede said in an email that she is “dismayed” with the campus’s decision to make these cuts, which she believes will have long-term consequences for researchers at Berkeley.

“The announcement cast blame on publishers for raising the costs of publications, and publications are becoming more expensive,”  Frede said in her email. “But surely that cannot explain why the university would choose to spend 1-1.5 million less on them.”

Despite acknowledging that the cuts may have negative impacts, Nuru-Jeter said she and her department understand the need for them and believe that campus has been handling the situation well.

MacKie-Mason said the library staff has tried to be as equitable as possible to all departments in implementing cuts and has tried to minimize impact that is felt by students and faculty.

The library has data on how many people use most journals, which is information they will use to determine what is cut, according to MacKie-Mason. Additionally, the library plans to reduce duplications and to switch to electronic-only editions of publications when it is possible.

Although resources will be removed from the UC Berkeley database, MacKie-Mason said there will be other ways for students and faculty members to access them — through other universities’ libraries, for example.

“I would like to reassure people that we don’t do this lightly. We wish this weren’t happening, but this is a campuswide thing,” MacKie-Mason said. “And we are constantly seeking advice so we don’t cut the important things.”

Contact Sri Medicherla at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sri_medicherla.

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  • Kathy Harrison

    Library Journal says the average journal subscription goes up 6% a year. The average library budget stays stagnant or goes up 1%. Sometimes there’s an extra bump, and sometimes a cut. Every library cuts every year, or shifts money around to make up the shortfall until they can’t anymore. They’re asked to give up their reserves, or something, and then the *big* cut comes. Those that think staff can be cut – I bet there’s lots of open positions being used to fund other stuff ALREADY. That’s also what university libraries tend to do.

  • diogenes

    The focus on staffing in preference to resources is a betrayal of the library’s primary mission and function, and the degrading of the library is a betrayal of the university’s primary mission and function. This is, in a word, poison.

    Expect to see the faculty collaborate in this fundamental destruction, by silence, like cowards.

    • jmmason

      Actually, this is an incorrect infererence. The cut of $1M in acquisitions and licensing of resources is only a small part of the *total* reduction in funding to the Library. In the current year alone the total reduction is $2.4M. And that’s less than half of the reduction of the past 3 years. *Most* of the reduction, by far, has been taken from staffing and other spending. We have protected acquisitions and licensing as much as possible.

      That said, the Library’s mission is “To help current and future users find, evaluate, use and create knowledge to better the world.” Building collections is *not* the mission: that is merely part of the suite of services we provide. So cutting staffing also impairs our ability to deliver our services to students, faculty and the public. For example, we provide information literacy instruction, syllabus and research assignment development assistance, research consultations, data acquisition and curation support, scholarly communications services and copyright advice, exhibits, etc., etc. When we experience major budget reductions, we have to balance our service priorities to continue to provide the best porfolio possible to support our current and future users.

      Jeff MacKie-Mason
      University Librarian
      Professor of Information and Professor of Economics

      • diogenes

        Any way you depict it, it’s a betrayal of fundamentals at the hands of a bloated administration and of the staff it commands, and librarians, with the acquiescence, from incompetence or complacence or cowardice, of faculty. The primary mission of a librarian is to maintain and build a library, which is, in essence, its collection. Mr. MacKie-Mason’s special pleading is politics in the service of careerism, subservience to hierarchy, and mis-training, and any way he covers it up, it’s a fundamental betrayal of the institution entrusted to his care.

        • diogenes

          As a mission statement for a LIBRARY or a LIBRARIAN this — “To help current and future users find, evaluate, use and create knowledge to better the world.”– betrays a cynical disregard for language and a willingness to parrot drivel typical of bureaucrats of all kinds and disreputable, as indicative of cyncicism or stupidity — take your pick — in a librarian. “Polly wanna cracker”?

    • Nunya Beeswax

      If by “staffing” you mean the proliferation of middle-management, then you have a point.

      • diogenes

        Yes, exactly. No more reference librarians, who used to be dazzling, instead, the “service desk” on the second floor of Doe staffed but utter ignoramuses, and who knows how many “middle level managers” in offices entirely isolated from library users. Library administration in recent years has conducted a devastating attack on our library. And people like Mr. Mackie-Mason get paid six figures to conduct it, to cover it up, to disguise it, and to excuse it. Feh!

        • Nunya Beeswax

          Administrative bloat is, of course, a global problem, and not confined to the Library. Still, I think your observation is correct; a recent reorganization in the campus library system added two layers of middle-management for no obvious good reason, except perhaps to add a successfully completed project to a library administrator’s portfolio–the object, of course, for that person to spiral out of their current job and into a higher-profile, higher-status job elsewhere. The meaningless shuffling-around of deck chairs in order to benefit one person’s career; now library employees know what it’s like to work at a large for-profit concern.

          • diogenes

            Thanks for filling in details. The same old stink from the same old stinkers. Meanwhile the library degrades and the faculty sits on its hands. The most contemptible players in this game are the faculty.