MU Libraries look for ways to offset possible future budget shortfalls

Monday, September 15, 2008 | 3:03 p.m. CDT; updated 5:56 p.m. CST, Friday, December 19, 2008

COLUMBIA — This time last year, MU Libraries were anticipating a budget shortfall of more than half a million dollars for the current fiscal year.

Now, Jim Cogswell, director of libraries, said the situation is "very much improved", thanks in part to reallocated money from MU administration and contributions from donors.

During 2007-08, MU Libraries had been forced to reduce acquisitions of some materials by 30 percent in anticipation of a budget deficit that was expected to be as large as $850,000 at the start of fiscal year 2009, which began July 1, Cogswell said.

After internal reallocations, Provost Brian Foster was able to provide the libraries with about $850,000.

"The library is one of the central university functions that we need for everything we do," Foster said. "We decided it was critical that library acquisitions got more support. We felt like there wasn't much choice but to (increase the budget)."

Cogswell said that the suspension of purchases has been rescinded, and all acquisitions are now back on track.

MU Libraries have also met and surpassed their fund-raising goal of $8 million, which is part of MU's $1 billion "For All We Call Mizzou" fundraising campaign, set to end in December.

Cogswell said the $8 million target was hit in April, and a recent news release from the campaign reported that the libraries had raised $8.1 million by the end of June.

Although things look brighter, Cogswell said he remains "cautiously optimistic" about maintaining the libraries' current status. The money received will allow MU Libraries to keep up with the rate of inflation for now. The real concern, Cogswell said, is handling the increasing prices of journals and other serials, which have gone up between 7 percent and 10 percent.

MU's Library Committee, which is charged to make recommendations to the provost on library improvement, focused a lot of its attention last year on the libraries' ability to buy journals, said committee chairman Robert Bauer, who is a professor in the geological sciences department.

"The big concern was whether or not the budget would actually be able to cover the increase in journal costs," Bauer said. "It's irritating because even if you have an incremental increase in the library budget, then you still fall behind in terms of your ability to buy journals."

Bauer said the committee is looking for a long-term plan for maintaining the budget so MU Libraries can avoid having to request additional funds year to year.

He said two possibilities have been discussed: One is to devise a formula for increasing the budget by making use of funds from research grants; the other is to charge an automatic library fee to students based on the number of credit hours they take.

Bauer said nothing has been decided yet. The committee will meet later this month and plans to meet with the provost in October.


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