As a result of major budget cuts this fiscal year and next, University Libraries will pull back on collections and adopt a 'just-in-time’ purchasing strategy, meaning it will purchase materials as needed rather than in advance.
University Libraries hosted its second information session Monday to inform the community about the upcoming collection changes. The earlier information session was held on Oct. 19.
The library system will face $2 million in budget cuts for the 2021-2022 fiscal year and $3 million for the 2022-2023 fiscal year directed toward “large-scale cancellations of scholarly journals and databases and reduced purchasing of books and multimedia items,” said Provost Bob Blouin and Vice Provost for University Libraries and University Librarian Elaine L. Westbrooks in an October campus message.
This announcement was met with pushback from some UNC faculty.
In Monday's information session, Nerea Llamas, associate university librarian for Collections Strategy and Services, reviewed UNC Libraries' strategy for the budget cuts and facilitated a discussion session. Westbrooks also responded to questions.
Llamas said that UNC Libraries will work to disperse cuts across all disciplines and formats, accounting for needs specific to certain departments. Llamas said this extends to work done by a collections review task force that was created in March and chaired by Nandita S. Mani, associate university librarian for Health Sciences and director of the Health Sciences Library.
The internal library task force is composed of subject specialist librarians and librarians who manage licensing and publisher contracts, according to Judy Panitch, director of Library Communications.
With reduced UNC collections, Llamas said they will emphasize a ‘just-in-time’ purchasing strategy.
“We’re very focused on purchasing as much as we can at the point of need rather than in advance of need,” Llamas said.
This system relies on Interlibrary Loans from partners, which Llamas said is fairly quick. Turnaround times for the Interlibrary Loans requests range from 24-48 hours.
The library system has also invested in Reprints Desk, a service that reduces the delivery time of materials. The library is also considering an investment in an enhanced delivery service called Rapid ILL, which has an average turnaround time of less than 12 hours.
Llamas also noted alternatives to accessing academic content and strategies for publishing research.
“We are committed to the research enterprise of the University, and we will continue to access scholarly literature whether that’s through a form of acquisition or whether it’s through delivery and that will always be free of charge to you,” Llamas said.
During the discussion, Emily Baragwanath, UNC associate professor of classics, said she was concerned about the efficiency of ‘just-in-time’ for researchers who can not afford long delays to receive articles.
“I just think there’s a real diminishment in quality,” Baragwanath said.
In response, Llamas said University Libraries will work with its partners to strategize about the ‘just-in-time’ philosophy — a concept that they have been heading towards for many years.
“We've also done that for decades, but we will do more of that,” Llamas said.
In explaining the future of the University Libraries, Westbrooks said that they are in a position to reduce costs in all respects. But she said that UNC Libraries are no longer in a position to protect collections.
"Although we're in this pickle right now," Westbrooks said, "I feel very good about the future and that we will find a path forward, where we have a sustainable budget that can help us to support research and continue the critical learning mission of this University.”
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