New year brings brighter outlook for library collections at Carolina

January 13, 2022

Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz will direct $2 million to the University Libraries annually, providing relief to strained library budgets and softening the impact of planned cancellations. The recurring funds will come from the facilities and administrative (F&A) costs built into research grants to support core University operations.

Library staff have worked closely with administrators over the past year to address financial challenges, including campus-wide reductions and the high costs and excessive year-to-year inflation in the price of scholarly journals, which are national trends.

This $2 million is in addition to $800,000 previously added as a one-time contribution to the Library’s budget to help combat inflation in the current fiscal year and a $1 million contribution to address a budget shortfall in FY 2021.

“Carolina’s Library is critical to the cutting-edge research and teaching we do every day. We would not be the world-class institution we are without the work and resources of our Library,” said Guskiewicz. “Our University Librarian, Elaine Westbrooks, leads a committed team with a strategic, focused vision. I’m pleased to take this step in support of University Libraries and I’m confident in our ability to continue navigating the challenges ahead together.”

“I am grateful to the Chancellor for recognizing the urgency of this situation and taking action,” said Vice Provost for University Libraries and University Librarian Elaine Westbrooks. “The University Libraries will continue to do our part to help Carolina meet its overall budget goals while working to advance the teaching, research and clinical care mission of the University.”

Impact and access alternatives

While the restored funding will provide a cushion for librarians to work with, researchers will continue to experience changes to library collections. Most immediately, access to certain journal titles and databases ended December 31 as publisher contracts expired.

“We will use this opportunity to further refine our subscription list and make the most strategic collection decisions we can for this university,” said Westbrooks.

The best way for researchers to learn what is available is to contact their subject liaison librarian. Liaisons can provide the most current information about what has been cut, what is being kept, and how best to access titles the University no longer receives.

For materials not available at Carolina, the University Libraries continues to provide and expand alternatives for researchers.

“It is our commitment to obtain whatever members of the campus community need for teaching, learning and clinical care, with no fee to them,” said Westbrooks.

Interlibrary loan (ILL) is a service that allows the Library to borrow from other libraries around the world on behalf of Carolina students, faculty and staff. Articles from journals are generally delivered electronically and can reach the requestor’s inbox in as little as one to two days. Books arrive through mail or by courier.

In 2020, the University Libraries joined a service that provides even faster access to articles from selected canceled journals. The Library is expanding this service in 2022 to cover additional titles. Researchers generally receive articles within hours.

The future of collections

Westbrooks said that research universities everywhere face challenges when it comes to scholarly journals.

“This is an industry that takes the research done at Carolina, that our faculty create and peer review for free, and that is largely paid for by taxpayers, and they sell it back to us at unreasonable prices,” she said.

These conditions make library budgets precarious and especially vulnerable when institutions must balance their budgets.

Westbrooks urges researchers to learn more about the scholarly communications system and to use their position to leverage change.

“We launched our Sustainable Scholarship initiative in 2020 for this very reason,” said Westbrooks. “There are a lot of things that researchers can do—from retaining copyright in their own publications to understanding how the costs of their society journals impact libraries. These are all things that will lead to a more stable, sustainable and open future for scholarly publishing.”

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