Library funds remain the same for 20 years
Published: Monday, October 8, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 17:10
The value of investment in Brandeis’s library collection, both in print and through digital resources, has seen little to no change in 23 years, according to data provided by John Unsworth, vice provost for Library and Technology Services and chief information officer.
In an interview with the Justice, Unsworth acknowledged that the collections budget actually showed a small decrease from 1989, when it was about three and a quarter million dollars.
In 2011, this figure was 3.14 million. Adjusted for inflation, 3.25 million dollars in today’s money comes out to just under 6 million dollars, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics’ online inflation calculator. “I think there’s a long term need to increase the collections budget in the library,” said Unsworth.
The University as a whole took a hit through the financial crisis of 2008, and this meant cutbacks for LTS as well as other departments. However, Unsworth was quick to clarify that “It’s certainly not the case that the overall budget for LTS hasn’t changed in 20 years;” only the collections budget has felt this kind of long-term squeeze.
Representatives from the Office of Budget and Financial Planning did not return calls for comment on Monday.
The collections budget includes money allocated for “buying books, buying journals [and] licensing online databases,” said Unsworth. “It’s all of the information products that the library provides, and that includes an increasing number of things that are provided electronically and remotely.”
According to Sherry Keen, associate director of resource management and budget at LTS, the department spends about 20 percent of its collections budget on print and 80 percent on electronic resources.
“I think the library and technology on this campus are a major component of the campus budget … It’s hard to say ‘oh, well, you know, they should double my budget, and just forget about everybody else,’” said Unsworth.
“The budget, I think, has been fair … Every department took a hit over the past few years and is slowly rebounding,” agreed Tim O’Neil, associate director of Media Technology Services, in an interview with the Justice. O’Neil recounted seeing a “great rise” in spending for media technology during the first few years of the seven he has been at Brandeis, “then it leveled off and was hit by the economy, and now it’s coming back.”
When asked to compare his department’s situation to that of other universities, O’Neil responded, “I work with a lot of people at other universities and a bunch of consortiums, and I think … For this size university, [Brandeis does] very well with it.”
Both MTS and LTS are now hiring staff after having to make cuts in full-time positions. According to Unsworth, the University has recently hired two science librarians and one social science librarian, and is in the process of hiring a humanities librarian. “Those people are really important to the interactions that we have with faculty and students. … So I’m really pleased, actually, to have been able to hire those folks,” said Unsworth.
Information security is also seeing a resurgence, with the hiring process for one more position underway. However, it is still “an area in which we’re significantly understaffed,” said Unsworth. One person, George Moore, the information security architect, currently oversees all the University’s information security needs. According to Unsworth, the information security needs of the department are being met, but, ideally, more people should share the responsibilities of the job. “George is a very capable and creative guy, but he needs to be able to take a vacation once in a while,” he said.
O’Neil, who oversaw only four full-time staff members at the beginning of this year, after one retired, will be adding two more positions to the department. One of these will be in place next week.
As for the future of the library and technology at Brandeis, Unsworth stressed that “you can’t really be a research university these days without a real information infrastructure and a real research library.” He served as an LTS representative on several strategic planning committees, in which he discussed topics such as the role of online learning in the future, academic innovation on campus and faculty research and scholarship.
“I think that a lot of investment has to be put into digital media display and connectivity in the classrooms,” said O’ Neil. “It’s important that some funding’s put into the infrastructure to make that possible.”
“Students pay a lot of money to come to Brandeis, and there’s a lot of things and a lot of funds invested, and we treat it seriously,” he continued. “So we give it a good percentage of our budget to support classrooms … trying to keep up with the emerging technology that changes everything, and how the faculty teach and how the students learn.”
The strategic planning framework will be released to the Brandeis community tomorrow, Oct. 10. This will include input from task forces made up of students, faculty, administrators and alumni which addresses topics including, but not limited to, academic innovation, flexible education through technology, University finances, and faculty, scholarship and research.
Only 20 percent of the library's collection budget currently goes toward print resources, not 80 percent, as the Justice was initially informed and consequently reported. In fact, 80 percent of the same budget is used for electronic and digital resources, while the other 20 percent is used for print resources.