UW Today

March 2, 2011

Faculty Senate will consider endorsing Faculty Fund for Library Excellence

If approved by the Faculty Senate, a new donation fund could help compensate for budget losses at the UW Libraries, and return the Libraries to their previous ranking.

The Faculty Fund for Library Excellence would accept donations from current and emeritus faculty starting in the next several months. On March 10, the Faculty Senate will consider endorsing the fund.

According to the UW Libraries Triennial Survey, faculty members rate University Libraries the most important source of information for their work. From 1980 onward, the UW had been in the top 15 percent of American and Canadian research libraries, according to data from the Association of Research Libraries. Its now in the top 25 percent.

“World-class universities are seldom built on second-class libraries, and this new fund would help enhance the extraordinary quality of the UW Libraries,” said Lizabeth (Betsy) A. Wilson, dean of University Libraries.

The fund proposal comes from the Faculty Council on University Libraries chaired by Joyce Cooper, an associate professor of mechanical engineering. “The fund creates a way for faculty to support our world-class collections,” Cooper said.

Donations would be used to buy and preserve books, journals and other materials for libraries on all three UW campuses: Seattle, Tacoma and Bothell.

UW Libraries funding has declined for much of the past decade. For example, compared with the 100-plus members of the Association of Research Libraries, the UW Libraries consistently ranked at or around 15th in materials expenditures for the 20 years ending in 2000. In the past decade, however, it has dropped to 25th. This decline has been most apparent in book buying. From 2003 to 2005, the UW Libraries bought 55,000 books annually compared with about 60,000 bought by peer institutions. However, in the 2009-2010 academic year, the Libraries bought only 40,000 books compared with 65,000 purchased by peers, a gap of 38 percent.

The Libraries face annual price increases for journals, and because big publishers such as Wiley and Elsevier bundle journals and charge on that basis, cutting individual journals isnt easy. As an alternative, the libraries have been buying fewer books and sometimes cutting journals it would prefer to keep.

Also, the Libraries are increasingly using collection endowments for purchases that in the past have come out of regular operating budgets. “Were having to look to collection endowment money to pay for bread-and-butter purchases.  A faculty fund would really help continue providing materials that students and faculty need for their work,” said Tim Jewell, director of Information Resources and Scholarly Communication at the UW Libraries.

Barring new funding, the gap between the UW and other top-notch research libraries will continue to grow, Jewell said.