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Librarians are the bad guys? (James Huesmann) Marcia Tuttle 08 Jul 1996 20:21 UTC

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 8 Jul 1996 15:05:23 -0600
From: James Huesmann <huesmanj@LHL.LIB.MO.US>
Subject: Librarians are the bad guys?

        I think, with some of the points being brought up in the last few
days, that this discussion is starting to hit some valid points.  The
discussion centers on research libraries, and not other types of libraries
(Important distinction!).  An unspoken assumption is that we're talking
mostly  about STM (science, technology and medicine) journals.  However,
there still seems to be a few points (in particular) that remains in
"discussion".  I'm taking the liberty of breaking up Al's response into
separate sections.

>Al Henderson <70244.1532@COMPUSERVE.COM> writes:
>I want to make clear that I think that the UNIVERSITY POLICY MANAGERS (not
>most librarians), who control the total amount of money budgeted for
>libraries and other departments, have gotten away with turning a deaf ear
>to faculty, researchers, students and librarians. They are SILENT PARTNERS
>with librarians who so often have become obedient buffers, forced to
>apologize for the unarticulated management policy of containing library
>expenditures while having no real power in determining how much the
>library shares in the total budget. More than one librarian has told me
>the president has handed them a nonnegotiable figure each year...

        So far, so good.  I don't think anyone (on this list, anyway :-)  )
would disagree with that university managers control the overall budgets.
However, Al, you seem to be missing a fundamental point.  You're somehow
convinced that librarians, as a group, are at fault for the "sins" of
university administrators (who are also humans :-)  ). I was beginning to
think that you were even talking to the wrong listserv - perhaps one for
university administrators?!
        While research funding has been increasing, look at the governement
support for the rest of the academy.  A little different, right?  Those
dollars have to be made up somewhere.  God forbid that I become an apologist
for university administrators, but increased paperwork (mandated by, but of
course not paid by,  government) has caused _some_ of those support
positions.  As Dan Lester so eloquently put it:

>Well, if your boss told you to cut $200,000 in journals, what would you
>do?  Try to put the orders through anyway?  Tell him or her to go to hell?
>Refuse to do it?  Quit in protest? Somehow I doubt it.

        Academic libraries fight for the budgets they get.  Try going to the
"ivory towers" during budget time - they resemble battlefields more often
than the serene, peaceful places of popular image.  Libraries support the
mission of the university.  As support, they have less "firepower" in those
discussions.  The successful libraries are those that get the faculty (who
have "bigger" guns) to realize that they, too, have a stake in the
libraries' portion of the pie.  The successful librarians are those that
convince the faculty that maintaining the journal subscriptions in their
discipline IS more important than a new building or whatever else is
competing for the limited funds available to the campus.  That takes
communication.  That takes involvement in the life of the university.  That
usually takes having enough research background that the faculty members
take you seriously.  Often, librarians and faculty together CAN make a
difference - when the difference is fiscally possible, in other words, in
setting priorities.  As for your solution in another message:

> Ask yourself who he (VP of Finance) reports to. Who
>approves his raises, travel, office facilities, etc? Who can fire him? Get
>rid of him. Maybe the next VP of Finance will be a little more sensitive
>and helpful.

        Obviously, it isn't the librarians at this institution!  And I'll
bet that there are few libraries that find themselves in this position.  You
really shouldn't state that "containing library expenditures" is an
"unarticulated management policy" - university administrators quite commonly
refer to libraries and computer centers as "white elephants".  The
challenge, of course, is to demonstrate that libraries (and computing
centers) are invaluable to their patrons, and assist in "generating revenue"
in terms of research monies.  Not easy, but do-able.

>Someone could have made the 5 o'clock news with this.

Someone did ;-)

>The reponsibility
>for filing such grievences properly belongs to the university presidents
>and to the associations that are supposed to represent the interests of
>members of the universities. At minimum they could have held a press
>conference. They should have made a Federal case, filing for injunctive
>relief. I have heard nothing of anyone asking why the misposted funds were
>not used to adjust library budgets for the impact of the devalued dollar.
>ARL was busy accusing publishers of profiteering and scholars of excessive

        Just who is "they"?  The university presidents in those few cases
where there was mismanagement, who would be personally responsible for these
actions?  Or are you saying this was the responsibility of the librarians,
or faculty, or whom?

        As for the statement about ARL: Sorry, but they have nothing in
common.  Do you really think there is only one problem here?  _Incredible_
profit margins for some publishers, publication of research "by-the-drip" to
increase article counts by some faculty members, internal funding
mismanagement at some universities, devauled dollar (my personal favorite
red herring - why doesn't the problem go away when the dollar increases in
value? ;-)  ), not to mention a few other causes, have all contributed to
the problems we find ourselves in.

>> The mission of the library HAS to match the mission of the
>> parent institution. If the institution's mission includes research in
>> selected areas, the library's collection should be more complete, to the
>> detriment of expensive, less-used titles in disciplines that play a lesser
>> role on campus.  Being a "research university" does not mean doing
>> research in all fields!
>Yes, I have been talking about universities, particularly research
>universities, because that is where most of the published usage studies
>originate. They are also the hubs of interlibrary loans and other public
>service use of library collections. These organizations have an obligation
>to their members' programs if not to the public that depends on their
>collections. More to the point, if you say, "the mission of the library
>HAS to match the mission of the parent institution," then shouldn't you
>say that changes in financial support for the library should match
>research and instructional expenditures?

I agree - as long as you look at the whole picture, not just expenditures.
Where is the income for the institution coming from?  How is it shifting?
Is there external forces (i.e. legislative fiat, enrollment shifts, new
programs, termination of existing programs, etc.) that are requiring the
institution to shift funding?  What is the mission of the particular
university?  Sad to say, but there is this little thing called "resource
allocation".  Just because a one-time research grant is awarded to a
university does not mean that major portions of that funding should go to
purchase a comprehensive collection in that and all cognate fields.

>What is the role of the library according to university management? I have
>been looking for a definitive statement by a university president of the
>1980s or 1990s. The word "library" seems to be missing from their official
>vocabulary. How do they justify university spending that generates
>publications has far exceeded spending on collecting them. Is the policy,
>"let somebody else do the collecting?"  I just wonder how these silent
>partners justify bullying academic professionals into gutting the
>intellectual infrastructure.

        I often wonder how university management can justify university
spending that generates publications, _GIVE_ away (or even pay page
charges!!!) those publications to publishers,contribute $$ (in staff time
for editors, reviewers, etc.) to those publishers, then buy them back at
higher and higher costs.

        Letting "somebody else do the collecting" isn't free.  TANSTAAFL
(There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch) rules.  The question is, "Is it
more cost effective to purchase what we need in this discipline (or from
this journal) than to buy the whole thing?"  This doesn't gut the
intellectual infrastructure in and of itself.  And that leads into the next
e-mail on ILL...

James Huesmann
Head, Technical and Automated Services
Linda Hall Library
5109 Cherry St.
Kansas City, MO 64110-2498
voice: (816) 926-8704
fax: (816) 926-8790