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K-State Today

January 29, 2019

Statement from Provost Taber and Dean Goetsch regarding Libraries subscriptions

Submitted by Sarah McGreer Hoyt

K-State Libraries currently spend about $5 million each year on subscriptions to electronic databases and journals. However, publishers continue to increase their prices by exorbitant amounts. With average annual inflation rates of 6 percent, subscription prices have become unsustainable. In addition, like other campus units, the Libraries have faced reduced budget allocations. Since FY 2014, the Libraries' budget has decreased by more than $1.5 million, or 11 percent.

In light of this environment, we are imposing a moratorium on all new library materials spending through the end of this fiscal year, June 30, 2019, in order to balance the budget.

The moratorium will include new books, journal titles, databases and other subscription-based materials. Materials needed for accreditation, course and curricular requirements, and research projects will be reviewed and purchased on a case-by-case basis. The moratorium is effective immediately and will be applied to all colleges and departments, including requests for materials for new programs without previously earmarked funding.

The serials crisis places academic libraries all over the world in an untenable position. For years, many libraries have done whatever they could to lessen the impact of subscription cancellations, including leaving employee positions unfilled. At K-State Libraries, collection materials and staffing comprise 90 percent of the Libraries' total budget, leaving little else to cut.

The Libraries have left positions vacant, reducing staff by 30 percent, or nearly 39 FTE, in the last five years. These salary savings have been used to absorb the cost of subscription increases, but we can't continue to reduce staffing at this rate.

It's an unavoidable truth: Cuts will hurt researchers and universities more every year as long as publishers continue to raise their rates by 6 percent — and even more — on an annual basis.

In early February, K-State Libraries will host an open forum to discuss the serials crisis and its impact on academic institutions, including K-State. Shortly thereafter, librarians will be reaching out to faculty and departments to learn more about each area's current teaching and research needs. We strongly encourage departments to meet with their librarian. These discussions will inform decisions regarding subscription nonrenewals later this spring, which will be the largest cut to date.

Through June, K-State faculty and researchers can put forward purchase requests through existing channels and library contacts, but general questions about the moratorium and subscription cuts can be sent to Joelle Pitts, head of content development, or Lori Goetsch, dean of libraries.

The Libraries have made strategic investments in supporting open access initiatives as a way to push back against the serials crisis. We encourage faculty, especially those on editorial boards, to advocate for and publish in open access publications. This is one of the ways to mitigate the effects of the crisis, but it will require bold leadership from established scholars to drive the conversation forward.

As always, interlibrary loan and document delivery services can be used to request materials that the Libraries do not own. Most journal articles are delivered directly at no charge in less than 36 hours.

Charles Taber
Provost and Executive Vice President

Lori Goetsch
Dean of Libraries