This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Anticipated budget cut for UB Libraries to reduce acquisitions

Published: October 30, 2008

University Libraries has been told to prepare for a 5 percent budget cut as part of Provost Satish K. Tripathi’s plan to implement differential unit-level cuts in response to UB’s anticipated $21 million budget cut from SUNY, the Faculty Senate Executive Committee learned on Oct. 29.

“[The Provost’s] message warned us that we should probably plan on facing scenarios that are at least as bad for the next two years—so we’re up against it,” said Steven Roberts, associate vice president for university libraries. “Our subject specialists are out working with the departments and individual faculty to figure out what is absolutely needed and what perhaps in this situation we can live without.”

A 5 percent budget cut equates to an approximately $400,000 to $500,000 reduction in the libraries’ overall acquisitions budget, he added.

H. Austin Booth, director of collections for the university libraries, said the impact of the budget is compounded by the rising cost of peer-reviewed journal subscriptions—a phenomenon that’s been an issue for the past 30 years. Subscription prices increase by nearly 10 percent each year, she added, a rate that’s approximately two to three times greater than the rise in health care costs.

“The problem is that it’s an incredibility inelastic market,” she said. “The price keeps going up and up, but the demand remains exactly the same.”

UB Libraries spends more than 50 percent of its annual new acquisitions budget on maintaining subscriptions, Roberts added.

In response, Booth informed senators that the UB Libraries is planning to circulate among faculty a list of journal subscriptions that have been “provisionally cancelled,” based on their low usage and ease of availability via other means, such as interlibrary loan.

Other cost-cutting measures include plans to foster greater coordination between the SUNY university centers in order to eliminate duplicate purchases of materials released by major university presses, she said, as well as greater dependence on electronic books—some of which will not be purchased officially until a patron actually clicks a link to request it.

In other business, Jorge José, vice president for research, explained UB’s policies on research involving human subjects and discussed the Internal Review Boards (IRBs) established to oversee these activities, including the Health Sciences IRB, Social & Behavioral Sciences IRB and Children & Youth IRB.

“We have to review all research that involves humans,” he said. “The IRBs were created to protect humans when experiments are done with them—to protect their interests and let them know what they’re being studied for.”

But several senators expressed concern that UB’s policies on human subjects are too broad and restrictive—or at least too unclear.

Robert Burkard, professor of rehabilitation sciences, School of Public Health and Health Professions, said the requirement that seasoned researchers undergo the same online training as their students and research assistants amounted to a waste of time.

Gayle Brazeau, associate dean for academic affairs, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, said she was surprised that publishing information collected from her students’ course evaluations required the same sort of approval as someone whose research cited sensitive personal or medical information.

Charles Hershey, professor of medicine, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, pointed out that it appears that a lot of minor research is going on without IRB approval, as the number of active studies that have been reviewed by the Health Sciences IRB—644—seems far too low, especially considering the number of UB medical residents, each of whom must conduct a research project involving human subjects.