The word is beginning to trickle out about the heavy budget reduction that the libraries at the University of Ottawa are experiencing. For any librarian this is heartbreaking. For a student or researcher, this is a cause for concern. It is a common refrain across the Canadian higher education landscape.
We at Carleton have fared better this year: we actually received an increase to our base budget. We are NOT out of the woods: since most of our resources are US in origin, or are purchased via US distributors, the exchange rate still eats into our buying power. In spite of our budget increase, we still find ourselves in a situation where we must reduce our expenditures on materials by cutting our book budget and canceling journal subscriptions.
To save money, academic libraries make group purchases of large packages. We participate in two large consortia: Canadian Research Knowledge Network (CRKN) and the Ontario Council of University Libraries (OCUL). This is a great way to get access to a wide range of resources which, for an educational institution that embraces interdisciplinarity as Carleton does, is a great thing. The problem is that, when we must reduce our budget costs, the cuts are big, because one cannot selectively cancel individual titles from within a package. Make no mistake: what the University of Ottawa is doing is gutsy. They have reviewed the usage of journals within certain packages and they are canceling several “big deal” packages. But they also know which journals were used most extensively, and they are concentrating their budget on picking up individual subscriptions to maintain access to these well-used journals.
Usage is a key metric (but not the only one) in deciding which resources to retain and which to cancel. We have been reviewing our numbers, too, and we know which resources are and are not used. We have already canceled packages due to non-use. But this does bring into relief an important notion about collection development: the role that you play in what stays and what goes.
You have a lot of agency in guiding what we purchase, although you may not realize it. We make every effort not to cut resources that are core to research, teaching, and learning on campus. If you want these resources, USE THEM. If you use our search engines to find resources, you may discover material that others are not using, which can add to your understanding of an issue. So check out the “journal articles” and “journals” sections of the Women’s Studies or Gender Studies subject guides (or any other guide for that matter) and make them your friends.
As far as books go, we are engaging in a demand-driven-acquisition (DDA) project where we obtain records for our catalogue that permit access to great ebooks that meet the needs of our degree programs (the collection development policy is here, and the subject-specific section for Women’s and Gender Studies is here). If you use these ebooks, they are purchased automatically. You can participate in shaping our collection by reading a couple of chapters from our ebooks. So… check out the “new titles” page regularly. Learn how to set up “saved searches” in the library catalogue so that you are notified of new material that matches your search criteria. Read.
This is most likely more than you want to know about how libraries maintain their research collections. It’s a major focus of academic and professional research in our discipline. If you would like to know more, don’t hesitate to contact me (janet [dot] hempstead [at] carleton [dot] ca). Or… well… we have a subject guide for Library and Information Science, too!