CARBONDALE — A round of journal cancellations is the latest in a series of cuts made to Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Morris Library.
Last spring, the university cut $400,000 from the library’s budget, forcing Morris to reduce hours and expenses. The library recently announced it would be closed on Saturdays.
“We’ve lost four staff members, we’ve cut back on our other expenses, and the materials took the biggest cut,” said dean of library affairs John Pollitz, adding that savings generated by the journal cancellations totaled $220,000.
One hundred forty-two titles were selected for cancellation based on low use or high cost, modified by factors such as citations from and articles by SIUC authors and JCR journal ranking.
Access to new journal content will still be available through the library’s interlibrary loan service, but the cancellations will pose a hassle to researchers, said electronic resources librarian Andrea Imre.
“It’s not going to be as convenient for our researchers, because they cannot just Google the content and get to the article that they need immediately, which is the case when we have a subscription. They will have to submit an interlibrary loan request, and it might take a few hours or up to a day to obtain a copy of that article,” said Imre.
There are fewer titles slated for cancellation than in years past; the library has had to cancel a significant number of subscriptions each year for about the past five years, Imre said.
That overall trend concerns her more than this year’s journal cancellations in particular. It’s the cumulative effect of all the cancellations that is adversely impacting faculty, she said.
“We have to account for journal inflation, and then we have budget cuts … and so we just have to cut more and more every single year. So what we are doing is, we are shrinking the collection, and we are shrinking it every single year,” Imre said.
She said she believes the trend is harming SIUC’s standing as a research institution.
“The library’s materials budget is a main factor in the ranking by the Association of Research Libraries, and because our expenditures are not keeping up with our peers’, our ranking has been dropping over the years,” Imre said.
Pollitz agreed, but said there are other ways to assess a library’s impact on student learning.
“Yes, when we report our numbers to the government, it won’t look as good to the Association of Research Libraries, but in the end, it’s how we serve our students in all of the ways that we serve our students. We have a very vibrant interlibrary loan program. … So we’re always looking for other means to make things as good or even better, even in times of tough budget battles,” Pollitz said.
Susan Tulis, associate dean for information services, said she has received about seven to 10 emailed complaints about the library’s decision to close on Saturdays, mainly from students simply wanting a quiet place to study.
The first-floor common area near the coffee shop will remain open on Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m., offering students a study space and access to a computer lab.
“It’s not the preferred way to study in the library, because people have their own spots that they like to go to, and so that’s an inconvenience. But we looked at that and we thought that that would be the least impact on our students,” Pollitz said.
“We’re a major university. Should we be open on Saturdays? Absolutely. But we’ve lost positions and we’ve lost money. So it’s a very hard decision, but that was what we opted to go with. Would we prefer that we were open? Yeah, but somebody’s got to come up with the money and give me the permission to fill a position,” Tulis said.
A list of the journal cancellations is available at libguides.lib.siu.edu/2018MLcancels.