Posted 8:30 a.m. Thursday, May 5, 2022

Katherine Fish, E-Resources & Acquisitions Librarian (left) and Pam Cipkowski, Collection Development Librarian

Librarians and other UWL faculty collaborate to meet library budget reduction

By Pam Cipkowski and Katherine Fish 

In August of 2020, while everyone at Murphy Library prepared for a new semester that we knew would be full of challenges and unknowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were also dealt a financial blow in the form of a one-time, 20 percent reduction to our budget. Quick decisions needed to be made regarding how we were going to meet this significant cut. Since academic journals take up an ever-increasing slice of our budget pie, we knew we wouldn’t be able to avoid trimming our subscriptions. But out of the hundreds of journals in our collection, how were we going to choose which ones to cancel?  

With the clock ticking and our budget dwindling, we turned to UW-La Crosse faculty for input. We sent them a brief survey, asking for some identifying information and any journal title they deemed essential to their teaching and research as well as any additional feedback they wished to share. As with any survey, we worried we wouldn’t get very many responses, particularly since it was a busy period of the semester. But the results rolled in, with 172 responses from faculty over the 12 days the survey was open. When all was said and done, we ended up with a total of 690 essential journal titles and many helpful comments.  

The survey guided our efforts to make necessary cancellations, and we also took the opportunity to do a deeper analysis of our journal collection using the feedback we had collected. We looked at subscription, access and usage data for the titles listed on the survey. The results were informative and sometimes surprising, which led us to wonder if librarians at other institutions have had similar experiences when making cancellation decisions. We decided to present our findings at the recent Electronic Resources and Libraries Conference, and our session generated some lively discussion and left us with much food for thought. 

Ultimately, we not only were able to meet our budget reduction, but we also came away from the experience more informed about what our faculty need—and more convinced than ever of the importance of hearing directly from our users whenever possible. While cutting subscriptions from our collection was an unpleasant task, we remain grateful for all the input and support we received during the process from instructors across campus. We look forward to continuing to find ways of working closely with all our users in our ongoing efforts to build a strong, vibrant collection.