The UT library budget has remained consistent for nearly a decade, while the cost for journal subscriptions have continued to rise annually, according to budget reports spanning from 1997 to 2017. Because the libraries can’t keep up with the growing expenses, their ability to collect and provide scholastic material for academic research is in jeopardy.
“A major institution needs a strong and stocked library,” said Jennifer Ebbeler, chair of the Collections Subcommittee of the Task Force for the Future of UT Libraries. “We must ensure that UT libraries can support the faculty and research staff who make UT-Austin the great university that it is.”
In the last nine years, UT libraries have received $12 million in funding annually. However, some individual journals can cost up to $10,000 annually, said Chris Carter, director of organizational effectiveness of UT Libraries. The University also subscribes to vendors who collect many journals under one annual cost. For some vendors, the University pays more than $1 million per year for access.
Because costs for journals increase 5 percent annually, the budget currently falls short by $5 million, or 41 percent of its annual funding.
Alicia Montecinos, a doctoral student in the College of Education, said the lack of funding could greatly impact students’ ability to conduct research.
“(A continued lack of funding) would be devastating,” Montecinos said. “I use the library system mainly for journal access almost on a daily basis … and that would be at least one book per class.”
The University also lost 53 library employees — 20 percent of the library staff — in the last seven years, said Travis Willmann, UT Libraries communications officer. While some employees retired or were lost through automation, Willman said budgeting also impacted these staff cutbacks.
“Obviously, it would be optimal to maintain both staffing and resource levels,” Willman said. “But given budgetary realities, … decisions about resources had to be made to ensure that the libraries are meeting the basic mission requirements for an academic research library.”
Alberto Martinez, history of science professor, said libraries cannot operate without their staff.
“I do research; I need the books, but I also need the staff people,” Martinez said. “We don’t just make the discoveries ourselves. There are these individuals who are experts on the collection. To have lost more than seven people per year for seven years in a row — it’s simply astonishing, staggering and heartbreaking.”
The inability to collect journals not only impacts traditional fields but emerging fields as well, said Lydia Fletcher, librarian of physical and mathematical sciences. UT is developing new programs that the library can’t support, she said.
“There’s just too many journals and articles being published for everyone to keep up,” Fletcher said. “It’s difficult to add things without losing something to make up that gap or negotiating what we can get access to.”
Martinez said the libraries should compare the budgets of various departments at the University in order to remain a top research facility.
“We should articulate the mission of libraries as creating magnum content so that researchers come here ... so this can remain an intellectual center,” Martinez said.