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Director's Reflections… Libraries in the Economic Downturn

barbara-2009-alteredLike most other programs in the University and the health center, HSLS has been adversely affected by the ongoing global economic crisis.  Budget support has declined, leading to difficult decisions about collections and services.

We are not alone in this situation.  A recent “hard times” survey by the Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries (AAHSL) found that nearly all of the 106 respondents have already experienced or expect to experience budget cuts in the current fiscal year.  The majority expects additional reductions in the coming year.

Health sciences libraries have been especially hard hit by disproportionate price increases for STM (science-technology-medical) journals that have eroded purchasing power over the past several years.  The problem is compounded by the fact that thousands of biomedical research journals are produced by a few “mega-publishers” who bundle numerous titles together in large, online subscription packages.  Many libraries are concerned that reduced funding may force them to drop important titles from smaller publishers because they are locked into multi-year deals with the mega-publishers.

In the past several months, several influential library organizations have issued statements, aimed at scholarly publishers, about the impact of the global economic crisis on libraries.  These include the International Coalition of Library Consortia (ICOLC) and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL).  This month, AAHSL and the Medical Library Association (MLA) jointly issued a statement about collections in health sciences libraries.  These documents urge publishers and vendors to partner with libraries in negotiating flexible licensing terms supportive of continued access to as much content as possible.  They further advocate, not only for price stabilization, but also for real price reductions driven by operational efficiencies, increased reliance on electronic-only publication to reduce overhead for print production, and a wider range of options for contract terms.

HSLS is actively working with vendors and publishers to reduce costs wherever possible.  We carefully monitor usage and cost data to ensure that the resources we offer are the most appropriate for our diverse user population.   We also continue to develop innovative interfaces to help you take advantage of our many resources and services.  And—as always—we welcome your comments and suggestions.

Posted in the June 2009 Issue