Minutes of October 29, 2008 Meeting

Arbuckle, Axelrod, Devanas, Gaunt, Grassle, Masschaele, McGill, Morrell, Novak, Pitts, Wasserman.
Boyle, Pazzani, Sewell

Budget Update

Gaunt shared with the committee the current thinking in the Libraries about dealing with a potential budget give back as of January 2009 and a permanent reduction as of July 1, 2009. The target reduction for the Libraries is $934,000. This can be apportioned to the three main budget categories: salaries (permanent staff), collections, or operations (includes hourly labor). In early fall the Libraries imposed an internal freeze on all vacancies in various stages of recruitment to allow flexibility in handling any expected reduction. This action resulted in 22 positions (faculty and staff) being frozen representing $1.2M in salary savings for the fiscal year. This would allow us to re-examine positions to be recruited in light of reductions, return some vacant positions, and avoid layoffs.

Considering the magnitude of the reduction, taking a cut in operations would not be feasible nor would it free substantial funds. Therefore, the reduction will be apportioned to positions (salary) and collections. In deciding the percentages to each category, Gaunt asked Sewell to determine what could "reasonably" be reduced in collections, as most invoices have already been paid. A target of $300K was recommended based on current subscriptions; the remaining $634K would come from giving back positions. Gaunt noted that we have a long list of collection requests from faculty totally close to $2M, and we know that faculty and graduate students are not satisfied with our current collecting levels. These are difficult decisions that challenge what it means to be a research library.

The Libraries will continue to collaborate with colleagues on interlibrary loans to expand collection access, and on ways to make such loans easier, faster, and more efficient for users and staff alike. Committee members noted that not having collections that our peers make available puts us at a disadvantage when recruiting faculty graduate students, in particular. Concern was expressed for the future of graduate programs. McGill mentioned the new ways that humanists can interrogate texts by having huge corpora, such as the Early English Books, available. Research that was impossible before is now a reality. Our faculty and students need to have this opportunity for research-it can't be delivered via interlibrary loan.

Gaunt and Sewell also noted that our state collections budget does not include monographs, which have been reduced steadily over the last few years due primarily to the increasing cost of science databases. The bundling of journals into expensive packages means that the Libraries must pay for titles they would not ordinarily acquire. Unfortunately, some publishers and vendors make it financially impossible to reduce the subscriptions to incur savings because of their pricing models.

But, the Libraries do not recommend protecting collections further at the expense of staff. The Libraries operate across three campuses with many facilities requiring staffing. While we have considered closing the science branches, we have no space to maintain the print collections that are not yet digitized. A consolidated science library is planned for the future. We also know that the information and technology environment is changing rapidly. The Libraries need to plan for and respond to new and powerful ways to support research and instruction, which will require disciplinary liaisons and technologically capable staff. In addition, we have more opportunities to raise external support for collections than we do for staffing, which most donors believe should come from the university.

Gaunt noted that our staff has been working on several open source initiatives funded through external grants. We see this as our future, and hope to move to an open-source infrastructure over the next five years. In order to do so, however we need to develop programming expertise in-house through the redesign of staffing models. We are currently building out that infrastructure by working on grants from the IMLS and the Getty and Mellon foundations. Some of these grants are also helping us build state-wide capabilities that the Rutgers University Libraries are leading. In the end, this infrastructure will support more powerful services for faculty and students and cost less in maintenance than our proprietary systems. It will, however, take creativity with staffing to get us there. Thus, we must be cautious when returning positions in budget reductions.

After some additional discussion, the committee endorsed the Libraries strategies to meet the budget challenges ahead.

Scholarly Communications Symposium

Gaunt noted that five years ago the Libraries and the VP for Academic Affairs co-sponsored a half-day symposium on scholarly communication that was attended by nearly 100 faculty and was extremely well received. In the last five years, much has changed and there are now even more pressing needs to re-examine this topic.

The annual increase in the cost of information regularly exceeds inflation, and this has continued for the last ten years. Universities clearly cannot support this situation. The increase is especially high in science and some of the social sciences. There is very little for libraries to do except to purchase databases through consortiums, but even there the prices remain high. The journal business is monopolistic, which makes it difficult to apply any pressure on publishers to reduce costs. The only way to deal with this crisis is for the faculty to act, because they are the creators of the information. The information technology environment has changed considerably in the last five years and there are now options for creative solutions - publishing in open access journals is one. Gaunt and Sewell reminded the committee that when librarians speak of "open access" they are referring to peer-reviewed scholarship that is made freely accessible and not self-publishing on the web.

The Rutgers University Libraries already publish three journals using the "open journal" publishing system. There are other ways to use the Internet to reconsider how articles are vetted and how recognition is awarded. The National Institute of Health's new mandate that articles written based on NIH funding be deposited in PubMedCentral is an example of open access. Universities, such as Harvard, have responded to the open access movement by passing university senate resolutions for their faculty to make their publications openly accessible through their university's repositories or on their websites. Data shows that more recognition accrues to the author when more individuals have access to their work.

The committee responded that faculty recognition is often based on the brand recognition of the journal. Morrel is an editor of an Elsevier journal of high regard, and she realizes that it is important to retain the high quality of the articles published there. The faculty do contribute their expertise to review the submissions, and recognition is given to authors. Masschaele wondered if we are missing opportunities to use new technologies to create scholarship in other ways that is not dependent on the "standard" ways of scholarly recognition, such as the book and brand-name journals. Are there other ways to confer recognition-downloads, citations, use, etc.? Pazzani responded that the PRC pays attention to the impact of the scholarship, not just the place where it was published, even if the unit fails to do so. McGill discussed how the humanities are going digital, providing new opportunities for research, and how open access is one way to make more humanities scholarship available. We need to be sure that "new" scholarship is being appropriately recognized. The faculty wondered if this is the time to reconsider how the departments evaluate scholarship in their discipline. The Exec. VP for Academic Affairs might ask each department to consider this, and then it would be recognized at the highest levels for recognition and reward.

Wasserman noted that scholarly presses and scholarly books are under tremendous pressure and university presses are looking at ways to make the "sustained argument" affordable. She noted that it is easier for a journal to move to open access than a book. Others responded that scholarly societies have not developed good business models to transition their journals to open access. Some wondered about the online purchase of book chapters, other ways to access the book, and the future of the book itself.

Boyle noted that faculty may not be aware that they sign publishers agreements that restrict their access to their own scholarship and that they may need assistance in knowing how to read agreements or what to ask of their publishers.

The committee agreed that it is time for another symposium that touches on all of these important issues and that cuts across all the disciplines and information formats (book/journals). We should engage the university administration on this topic as it is critical for the future of the academy. A half-day symposium could set the stage for additional follow-up discussions that are more granular. If possible, we should try for the Spring semester. Gaunt offered to have a small internal group in the Libraries draft an agenda for discussion of the full committee.

URL: http://www.libraries.rutgers.edu/rul/staff/groups/rul_adv_com/minutes/ruladv_08_10_29.shtml
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