By Emmett Ferguson, 23News Reporter

The MU Libraries are cutting $1.2 million from their acquisitions budget as a result of the revenue shortfall caused by declining student enrollment.

“Some of the Libraries’ cuts will come from staff positions and hours, but to reach the needed amount, we must include cuts to material that we know is essential for research and teaching at this University,” University Libraries Interim Director Ann Riley and Chair of Campus Library Committee Rabia Gregory said in an email to faculty in May.

Even before the cuts were announced, MU libraries were struggling to provide quality services with their already diminished budget.

“The library has not been a funding priority probably since the early 80s” Gregory said.

This has taken a toll on the acquisitions budget.

“We have had some funding support over the years, but never enough to keep pace. Adjusted for inflation, our acquisitions budget has declined about 40 percent in the last 15 years.”  Riley said.

Among other things, this has forced the library to make staff cuts.

“Since 2001, we have suffered a decrease of almost 30 percent of our full-time staff, as the university enrollment grew,” Riley said

In 2001, MU libraries had 201 full-time employees with a student body of 23,000. Last year, there were 151 full-time employees with a student body of 35,000. This amounts to an almost 25 percent reduction.

The cuts to staff combined with the libraries’ financial woes have led to a decline in MU’s Association of Research Libraries ranking.

“Currently we are ranked 101, down from 62 twenty years ago,” Riley said in an email.

Last year MU Libraries proposed a student fee. This fee would have allowed the library to maintain and expand their database subscriptions and make renovations to Ellis. The library recommended starting the fee at five dollars per credit hour. The fee would increase by two dollars per year for five years. At its absolute maximum of $15 per credit hour, it would cost students taking 15 credit hours $225 a semester.

In order for the fee to be enacted, 60 percent of students had to approve it. However, in November, only 46 percent voted in favor of the fee.

While the campaign for the library fee focused primarily on student benefits, the additional revenue would have also helped professors gain access to journals needed for research.

Without access to certain databases, the research process becomes more difficult. This is taking an especially heavy toll on junior staff who are trying to establish their careers and meet the expectations of a research-intensive university.  Many professors, Gregory included, can’t even access papers that they wrote because they were submitted to databases that the university cannot afford subscriptions to.


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