News from the Dean: The Impact of Inflation, Books and the Library Budget

While it is true that the library will not be purchasing as many print books as in previous years, this year we will focus our limited resources on acquiring specific titles requested by our faculty and students whenever possible. In FY2013, the library purchased about 4,150 print books at a cost of $236,334. This year between July and September, we have spent $86,751 on print format materials and we will supplement that with $76,000 in gift funds for print book purchases. Important scholarly books are still only available in print and are important for research at UMKC. 

At a recent Faculty Library Advisory Committee meeting, the library presented the current state of the library’s acquisition budget and the impact of subscription inflation upon it. The following two charts tell the story quite well.


For FY14, the effective loss of buying power equals $120,000.  Each year the inflation rate impact cumulates, necessitating annual cancellation projects unless additional funding for collections is received.  Librarians regularly work with faculty to review which journals we can cut to help narrow this gap in our budget and the rising inflation. We no longer subscribe to both print and electronic versions of journals and we monitor how much usage each of the databases and e-journals are being used to ensure we are licensing the most needed resources.  Last year UMKC faculty and students logged 2,322,783 database searches, 785,706 journal article downloads, and 427,218 book chapter downloads. It is gratifying to see these expensive resources are being heavily used.  

Meanwhile, the number of electronic databases (journals, books, and indexes) licensed has grown in the past 6 years as more materials are available electronically and as the demand for the convenience of 24x7x365 access grows. Our 2011 LibQual survey results showed that faculty and students wanted electronic resources over print and the library’s collection strategy now reflects that preference.   Last year we added 363,785 electronic books and journals, 7,966 print items, nearly 26,900 sound recordings to Music/Media and the Marr Sound Archives, and over 100 linear feet of manuscript materials to Special Collections.   In FY13 we were able to participate in a state-wide licensing of the EBSCO collections of 140,000 e-books for an annual cost of $9840.   For that same amount of money we would have only been able to purchase 173 print books (the average price of print books purchased by the library last year was $57.) Likewise, e-journal databases provide access to many more journal titles than we could subscribe to individually.  Libraries regularly work together in consortia to license expensive packages of electronic resources to reduce the cost.   However, we are also frequently locked into these package deals for multiple year contracts reducing our flexibility when we need to make adjustments.  

While journals have largely transitioned to an electronic format, books are still very much in transition. There are many people who still prefer reading a print book, myself included. However, the convenience of 24x7x365 access to e-books is compelling to many others. In addition to this, the ability of multiple users to access the same e-book title at the same time is a compelling value in the era of increasing distance and online education. As stated above, the library can get access to many more e-books for a lower cost than is possible to purchase print books. We also have a service of just-in-time access to e-books. This service creates records for all their books in our online catalog; a click on the link and the item is downloaded for the user and the library is charged a nominal cost. After 7 downloads, we own the book. With this service we are only paying for materials that are used but many more books are readily available.  

Libraries have long collaborated and partnered to share resources and interlibrary loan has never been more important.  No library can acquire everything that has ever been published.  Having the ability to borrow materials from other libraries is critical to meet research needs.  This also means being an equal partner by lending things we have when others need them.  One of the unfortunate downsides to electronic licensing is that frequently publishers will not allow interlibrary loan for licensed materials.  Librarians continue to lobby for interlibrary loan of electronic materials.  In the meantime, we do continue to lend print materials. We will also lend electronic materials when we are allowed to do so and will negotiate with publishers to secure these invaluable interlibrary loan rights at every opportunity. Additionally, many of the electronic resources that we license are available to scholars from other area institutions who visit the library in person.

One initiative to combat the serials inflation impact is found in the open access movement. When authors retain their copyrights, even when publishing with commercial publishers, and deposit the publication in an institutional or disciplinary repository, scholarship is made freely available to anyone who is interested.   Many government funding agencies are now requiring that research they have funded is deposited in an open repository. The UM System has an institutional repository called MOspace. I encourage you to talk to a librarian about how to participate in open access publishing. As this trend takes hold and hundreds of open access journals are now being published, the economics of scholarly publication are beginning to shift. We hope to be working with the faculty on open access publishing to help make scholarship more readily available and to help keep costs down.