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.