The Cost of Information

For an assignment in this module ‘Contemporary Issues in Professional Practice’ myself and three of my classmates were required to prepare and present an entire class. For our topic we decided to discuss the cost of information. Unfortunately, budgeting and finances are not a subject we cover in the MLIS course but we may be required to work with budgets in our future careers. Although we definitely aren’t qualified to give advice or teach about the ins and outs of budgets and accounts, we felt that we should touch on some issues that libraries are dealing with in relation to funds and at least open some discussion about the decisions libraries are having to make and initiatives that it may be useful for people in our field to support, such as Open Access.

We decided to focus on academic libraries because there is a lot to say in this area and we wanted to keep our presentation focused. I was aware that scholarly publishing is related to exorbitant fees but I didn’t realise that the statistics show 65% of library budgets can be spent on journals alone. With the cuts in budgets this means that something has to give and unfortunately its most likely to be staff or services because the journals are seen as being necessary for student’s education and staff research.

There are all kinds of ways that you can cost save and change things around in a library. My classmate listed some options like staff cuts, or changes to staffing (e.g. re-deployments). Think about technology needs, now that a great deal more people have their own personal devices. Possibly make more use of Special Collections and see if you can find a way to make them work for the institution, for example, Trinity College have an app with the Book of Kells.

One of the most effective things that libraries could do however is to support open access. If open access became the norm, whether the gold or green model, then the process of taxpayers paying twice for journal articles (in the sense that universities use tax payer’s money to pay the researcher’s to do the research and then to also to buy the subscriptions from the publishers) would not be an issue. Many universities already have institutional repositories and they could really build on the foundations that they have in place. I am very aware that there would be costs involved in open access but I honestly believe that the money being spent on journals could be reduced by a huge amount and even to reduce the number from 65% to 50% would be helpful and would mean that there would be an extra 15% available for staff or services. SCONUL has printed that the average library budget is 4.6 million, so that 15% could be as much as 690,000. According to the University Times, Trinity’s College Library’s budget was to be cut by €792,000 in 2012/2013.

I think it is important for us as future librarians to bear in mind that we may rise through the ranks of the profession and these may be concerns for us and it is worth keeping an eye on what is happening in this area.