FAQ About Collections Reductions

Why is the University Libraries planning to reduce collections?

In January 2021, University leaders announced a plan to address budget challenges. The plan included successive reductions to both personnel and operating funds for all units over two fiscal years.

As part of this process, the University Libraries will need to cut approximately $2 million from the collections in FY 21-22 and approximately $3 million in FY 22-23. The University Libraries will reduce the purchase of books and similar items such as multimedia. It will also cancel subscription journals, packages and databases. These subscriptions now make up nearly three-quarters of collections expenditures.

These cuts take place following decades of high cost and high inflation rates for scholarly publications. The University Libraries launched the Sustainable Scholarship initiative in 2019 to make research more sustainable, affordable, transparent and open over the long term.

Were other approaches considered?

Like all units, the University Libraries has reduced programmatic operations such as travel, events, and supplies and has eliminated positions or left vacancies unfilled. However, cutting library collections is the only path to reach such a significant budget cut target.

A one-time allocation from the University, along with one-time funding from vacant positions at the University Libraries, will extend the cuts over two years and defer the larger portion until the second year.

What is the timeline?

Reduced book purchasing is already in effect.

Journal and database cancellations will take place over two years. Many licenses expire December 31. Therefore, a large number of cancellations will take effect January 1, 2022. A second large number will take effect January 1, 2023. Databases due for mid-year renewals will be canceled upon expiration of the current license period.

Library subject liaisons can help you plan your research and teaching to avoid or replace materials that will not be available.

How will decisions be made about what to cut?

The Library will make decisions based on information about materials and their use.

In prior journal cuts, input from faculty members about specific titles was heavily weighted. Although the Library will still consider these perspectives, the extent of the cuts and pending contract expirations will require deep cancellations and rapid decisions. When choices are possible, the Library will lean on data such as usage statistics, publisher pricing models and licensing terms, history of inflation, and availability of content through other means. The Library additionally must consider the full range of scholarship and teaching across all disciplines so that none is disproportionately disadvantaged.

How can I provide input on the materials I need?

You should reach out to the subject specialist for your school, department, or program. Your subject specialist will advise you on options to help you access content that you would like to use.

Is there a list of materials under consideration to be cancelled?

The best way to find out about titles that you use is to contact the subject specialist for your school or department. They will have the most current information and can share relevant lists in your field along with important clarifications, such as whether the Library will be retaining backfiles or if the same title is available through a different service. We are not able to publish a comprehensive list with this degree of detail.

What if you cancel something that I need?

After successive years of cancellations, there are no marginal or secondary titles left to cut at UNC-Chapel Hill. We recognize that every cancellation will impact research, instruction, or clinical care.

The Library is doing everything possible to support and grow interlibrary loan and document delivery services, including maintaining existing cooperative agreements and, when possible, expanding on them. We also routinely include links to open access sources for scholarly content in the library catalog and we highlight these resources in instruction sessions and elsewhere.

Some content will not be available to you right away, but please know that we will do our best to get it to you in the timeliest way possible.

Can endowments or other private funds be used for subscriptions?

The University Library already uses private funding to support collections. However, many endowments and gifts have very specific requirements for their use or are committed to other library programs and services.

Can the University Libraries cooperate with other libraries to purchase materials and lower costs?

The University Libraries has longstanding memberships in consortia that license library materials at more advantageous prices. Some of the most significant of these purchasing and licensing consortia are:

In addition, as members of organizations such as the Association of Research Libraries and SPARC, the University Libraries works closely with other research libraries on policy and innovation related to sustainable scholarship.

Can I help by donating my personal subscription or letting you leverage my association memberships?

While we appreciate the thought, there are significant differences between individual and library subscriptions. As a library, we must pay fees for electronic books, journals and databases based on the size and research intensity of our campus. It would not be permissible for us to share your individual subscription with the campus.

Will there be additional cuts in the future?

Unfortunately, budget reductions are only part of the picture. One reason journals have become so expensive is the high year-to-year inflation that publishers impose. Without a budget that reliably grows at the same pace, cancellations are the only tool available for libraries to contain inflationary costs.

One way to help manage the increasing costs of scholarly publishing over the long term is through open access publishing. Every member of the Carolina community can help make research publications more available and less costly. The University Libraries’ Sustainable Scholarship initiative encourages you to take action and help make research more sustainable, affordable, transparent and open.

What can I do if I can’t find what I need at the University Libraries?

Your subject liaison is your best source of information for alternatives or alternative forms of access to research publications. You can also try the following:

  • Install a browser plug-in to find open access articles. Browser extensions such as Open Access Button and Unpaywall are free and legal ways to locate open access literature.
  • Ask a colleague. Many researchers are happy to provide a copy of their articles upon request. Sites such as ResearchGate and Academia.edu facilitate legal scholarly sharing.
  • When Carolina’s libraries don’t have an item you need, will get it for you at no cost to you through interlibrary loan services. You can frequently receive articles in as few as two to three hours.

How can I support and advocate for the University Libraries?

We have been moved and honored to hear from so many members of the Carolina community eager to help, support and advocate for the University Libraries.

Please visit Ways to Help for ideas and suggestions.

Last updated October 25, 2021