In a move that will affect many students and faculty members, the UC Berkeley Library will cut $1 million in journal subscriptions and book purchases for the first time in recent history.
The $1 million cut for the acquisition and licensing in journals is part of the overall $2.4 million in cuts that the library has to make this year, according to University Librarian Jeffrey MacKie-Mason. A $2 million cut doesn’t seem like a large number compared to the campus’s nearly $3 billion budget, but it is a lot for a library that has already been forced to make significant budget cuts almost every year since the early 2000s.
So much of the campus’s prestige stems from its success as a research institution, and so much of that success is based on having access to some of the largest and rarest collections in the world. Cutting that seems like a quick way for the campus to lose its research chops.
In the past, the library had to work “really hard” to deal with annual cuts without affecting services, slashing in other areas like staffing, facility maintenance and equipment, MacKie-Mason said. But this year, the library had nowhere else to cut and had to turn to journals and books for the first time. The library is planning for another “sizable” cut for the next budget cycle (although it isn’t expected to be as big as this cut), and at least one more year of cuts after that.
In 2014, faculty and campus administrators worked together to create a funding plan to maintain the libraries, after faculty objected to the administration’s proposal to cut 10 or 16 libraries. But now only four years later, the library is facing another round of reduced spending.
“(The library is) something that every single person on campus uses,” said associate professor of history Victoria Frede. “It just seems to me that the university should be defending that common good. … (The library is) just cutting the thing that matters most, I think, to the university.”
MacKie-Mason said in a previous interview with The Daily Californian that the library keeps data on how many people use its journals, which it will use to determine which journals to cut. But just because a ton of scholars aren’t using these journals now doesn’t mean they won’t ever need access to them in the future.
By limiting access to important academic resources, the library prevents students and faculty from doing their research — and even if just one person is affected by that, that’s still one too many.
Frede said she was concerned that journals vital to studying minority languages would be cut because they may be deemed “obscure” or “low-use,” but then may be valuable in the future — and those interested scholars won’t be able to conduct research in those areas because the library will have already cut the necessary resources.
And if the current trend of budget cuts continues, then this problem will only worsen.
The UC Berkeley Library is central to the campus’s identity — it is the second-largest library in the country. Part of what students pay for to attend this institution is unparalleled access to resources. But if the library just keeps getting stretched thinner and thinner, then the campus will have shelved its greatest asset.
Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.