State of the Library Budget

July 1, 2011

Dear Colleagues:

The state budget signed by the Governor of California imposes a $650 million cut to the University of California for the 2011-2012 Fiscal Year. To prepare for the ongoing downturn in the state economy, the campus has asked the Library to plan for its share of the reduction.

Combined with the FY11/12 cuts, the proposed cuts will account for an overall $1,699,499 (36%) reduction in state support for UCSF Library operations over the past 4 years.

Working with the Academic Senate Committee on Library and Scholarly Communications, we have taken the following steps to meet this reduction:

  • 10% reduction in journals and databases  (1,500 journals, 7 databases)
  • 33% reduction in book purchases
  • 22% reduction in library hours (39 hours per week including Parnassus and Mission Bay)
  • 20% reduction in staffing  (12.45 FTE)

At the same time we are faced with significant use of our digital and physical spaces.  During the past year, we have seen the following use of Library-provided resources:

  • 1.7 million views of the library managed websites
  • 3.2 million views of library-managed and paid-for electronic journals  (12% increase)
  • 200,000 e-book visits   (11.5% increase)
  • 200,000 database searches (other than PubMed)
  • 3,000 student visits per month to online courses (10% increase)
  • 1,555 online courses hosted (94% increase)
  • 2,100 UCSF students attending classes on research skills
  • 27,000 information/reference transactions
  • 550,000 visits to the Mission Bay/ Parnassus libraries
  • 10,000 views of digitized historical material

We understand the budget issues facing the University are ongoing.  At the same time the Library is working to maintain essential services and resources within the funding constraints and to maximize its flexibility to address budget cuts.  Over the next year the UCSF Library staff will focus their efforts on how best to serve the UCSF community with significantly reduced resources.

We encourage faculty comments about the impact of these reductions on your work and practice and welcome suggestions for optimizing services under current fiscal constraints.

Please leave comments below or email either of us directly.

Lee Ann Baxter-Lowe
Chair, Academic Senate Committee on Library and Scholarly Communications

Karen Butter
University Librarian

49 Responses to State of the Library Budget

  1. David Liao says:

    I would prefer that journal subscriptions and book purchases be sustained at least at current levels. In exchange, I could tolerate some service hour cuts. I am a mathematical modeler, and books are some of my “reagents.”


    • Karen Butter says:


      Thanks for reminding us that books are important to segments of the UCSF community.
      Just a note — we are licensing e-books as well — one of the most recent packages is through Springer with more than 25,000 titles. Titles cover a wide range of subjects including mathematics.

  2. Kevin Mack says:

    The most disturbing elements of the budget cuts are their potential to diminish the creative work that alters the problem-knowledge coupling skills of our health scientists. The rate of change of information is such that we must be investing in knowledge acquisition skills. This requires availability of library staff to guide trainees and their faculty into new methods of data mining. The reduction in staffing is potentially MUCH more costly than we will be able to measure in the short term.

    • Karen Butter says:

      Thanks Kevin. As you note a critical challenge is effective programs that can quickly search and sort through vast quantities of content to find the pieces of information relevant to the question at hand. Library staff continue to improve search systems to take advantage of advances in computing technology.

  3. Arianne Teherani says:

    We are an academic institution with a core mission to impart and propogate knowledge. How are we supposed to sustain the latter when we are being asked to cut a main source of knowledge?

  4. Brad Shapiro says:

    As a clinician/educator/researcher, my main interaction with the library is to access online journals and clinical databases (UpToDate). While I value librarian services and access to the physical libraries themselves, I would prefer to have no cuts to online journal/database access, even at the cost of further reductions in library hours and book purchases.

  5. Claudia says:

    I have been particularly affected by the closure of evening hours, which are the ones I take advantage for after “formal” work (at my office at Laurel Heights).

    I am not suggesting, however, that what should have been done is to maintain library hours to the expense of buying books or subscribing to journals. In fact, I believe that none of these are real options. The sad truth is that we are being invited to choose among these “options” because the only valid alternatives, defend our educational system vis-a-vis the onslaught of budget cuts to basic social commitment and services, are being placed out of our reach.

    I understand that UCSF officials in particular may have been forced to make these and other changes (e.g. raise student fees) due to factors beyond its control, and they are just doing their best within the stated constraints. However, I am very disturbed by the social ethic that appears to inform these “tough choices” — never touch the income of upper level management, business, or corporate actors. And if you do, do it minimally, and only to appease “the masses” (students, public employees, workers).

    Until the American people rebel against this imposition, and the underlying assumption that pervades it — that these economic times are the result of the mere workings of some law of nature (except, of course, when the health of bankers is at stake, in which case “we” are forced to bail them out, or risk nuclear debacle), there will be no end to these increasingly harsh “tough choices”, and the bar will be moved further and further towards harsher cuts, fewer library hours and journal subscriptions, lower wages, etc. And no law of nature will come to our rescue.

  6. John roberts says:

    The physical use of the library is minimal while the digital access is increasing. The library should cut physical plant operations and continue or increase digital access. The training sessions should be moved to online. The physical space should be put to other uses given te severe space limitations.

  7. Andrew N. Goldberg says:

    Online access to medical journals is by far my most frequent and important use of library services. I would advocate for an increase in digital services at the expense of physical books and space. The decentralized nature of our medical center and mulitple campuses highlight the importance of this access.

    • Karen Butter says:

      Thanks Andrew. The Library’s priority is to move resources and services to the digital world. Whenever possible we subscribe to the digital journal instead of the print. Today we have fewer than 150 journals in print — primarly because they either aren’t available in digital format or their license terms and/or price are unacceptable.

      The same is not true for books — while we have licensed some e-books publishers are testing various business models some of which are clearly unacceptable to the campus community.

  8. Michael Nevitt says:

    Online access to medical and science journals is my number one priority based on need and use.

  9. Starley Shade says:

    I too would prefer prioritization of the digital over the physical resources. To the extent that all physical resources can be digitalized, this will allow broader access by all.

    • Karen Butter says:

      Starley. We have made great progress in licensing digital journals. This fall we are partnering with Google to digitize 26,000 books in the UCSF collection. The full text of those that are out of copyright (prior to 1923 or in the public domain) are viewable. Only very limited snipets of those in copyright are viewable.

  10. Erik says:

    I would prefer that the library prioritize access to online resources (journals, books, etc.) over physical resources.

  11. roberta says:

    I agree that online access to journals is essential, and advocate to maintain the diversity of journals. Specifically, I use social science and nursing journals, in addition to medical ones. Also, I would not like to see all tutorials and educational offerings moved on line. It is helpful sometimes to be able to consult with an “expert librarian” or someone who really knows the software and/or research literature. Therefore, your approach of shared pain across the multiple functions and services of the library is probably correct. I hope that the development office has library services on their radar in terms of finding big donors who might understand the importance of libraries.

    Library services are integral to both my research and teaching responsibilities.

    • Karen Butter says:

      Thanks Roberta. We understand that the ways social and behavioral scientists use information is different than clinical and biological scientists. While we are working to offer services on line sometimes one does need to consult with a librarian in person.

      We will continue to work with the development office to identify external funds to support the library.

  12. Dolan Eargle says:

    It’s all so ” do it to somebody else, but not me!” Where are the comments on ” this is such a catastrophe that I can easily sustain a mild cut in salary.”

    I don’t expect much of a reply to this…..

  13. Don L. Jewett says:

    Being Emeritus, I mostly use the digital services. These need to be maintained as crucial to the move of knowledge to the Web. I have an NLM grant to make software to enhance development of scientific knowledge on the Web. Ultimately, this will need the library and CDL to utilize some of our software. In the future, I would hope that the library computers (and/or CDL) will host websites that are created by Faculty and Students of UC for the purposes of assembling and codifying knowledge from the Web. Please contact me for further information on my project.

  14. Terry says:

    Not opening the library on Saturdays is completely unacceptable. Pls open the library on Saturdays even if only briefly (1pm to 5 pm).

  15. Leanne H. says:

    While I understand times are tough, online access to journals is a major necessity for research. Any cut to this area would have a significantly negative impact on my work.

  16. Abbey Alkon says:

    The library is essential to our mission of education and research. Our faculty and students are more dependent on the UCSF’s websites, access to the library online, and library’s resources online. Also, the students need access to the physical space of the library to study and have a quiet retreat away from the Parnassus campus, which provides no quiet space for studying. We all need to access the online journals for our teaching and research.

    • Karen Butter says:

      Thanks Abbey. In recent meetings about library space we continue to hear the value of physical space for study, writing and research from all segments of the campus community. At the same time physical space to house books and journals, especially for the sciences, is decreasing rapidly.

  17. AC says:

    As volunteer clinical faculty, my primary use of the library is to access on-line medical and health journals. These also would seem to be a very cost-effective way of providing library services. I request that cuts to on-line library access be minimized.

  18. Mark Kelly says:

    In my previous life I worked in a small biotech where we had no subscription online access. Access to publications is a vital nutrient to good science.

  19. Tina Brock says:

    It’s true that Library serves many different needs for a many different and diverse stakeholders. What may be optional to some is critical to others – our research is fed by access to science and our educational programs require the availability of learning spaces and guides. I don’t know how to solve the problem, but I know when forced to choose which “child” lives (ala Sophie’s Choice), the ending is unhappy for all.

  20. Adam Collins MD says:

    This is all very disappointing, but it is an opportunity to look at what we need in the upcoming years. For my level of expertise and needs, I would say that mobile access will be key. It would be nice to have a simpler, unified interface for finding texts and other online resources without having to know what collection/database it resides in. the heterogeneity of the system is a barrier, and I can’t always find what I know is there. I would also enjoy a mobile friendly document access and reading system for my iPad. It takes a lot of clicks to archive a PDF for later reading, and I don’t get the sense the the VPN system for the iPad really does the trick for accessing journal articles via institutional license.

    Bottom line, is I rarely use the physical resources of the library, and am mostly interested in being able to easily access digital materials at a distance from a computer, but ALSO a tablet or other mobile device, for teaching and for clinical decision support. Collecting and organizing these documents is challenging, so I use applications such a Papers to do this, and I am interested in the easiest possible workflow.

    • Karen Butter says:

      We agree that mobile access is key and one of our priorities for this next year. In terms of streamlining access there are at least 2 aspects. One is licensing content and then to bring it all together in a seamless platform. We are working on both fronts – to license more content designed for mobile and to identify a solution for a better discovery interface.

      Regarding the management of PDF’s there are companies like Mendeley, Papers and Zotero that offer some support in this area but clearly there’s much more work to do.

      There is also an ongoing challenge in delivering mobile and tablet friendly subscription based content since this is largely in the hands of publishers/vendors. You should see improvements in access from the Library side over the next year.

      Thanks for your suggestions.

  21. Matt Cooperberg says:

    I agree PDF access for on-line journals is critical and should be a high priority. My guess is there are some titles that are of low relevance to most UCSF faculty (Journal für Ornithologie? Journal of archaeological method and theory?). On the other hand, some review article series not currently available (e.g., Current Reports, Nature Clinical Practice) would be very useful.

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