Libraries face crisis

Students and faculty who use the University's Science and Technology Library will have fewer resources to choose from unless the library's funding problems are resolved.

Skyrocketing subscription costs have forced the University to cut nearly 450 journal subscriptions from the science and engineering collection since 1990. Budget forecasts indicate that 200 additional subscriptions may be trimmed during the next two years, leaving the University with 40 percent fewer journal subscriptions than it had ten years ago.

Although library funding has remained constant over the past several years, most science and engineering journals have raised their subscription rates dramatically, some by as much as 50 to 75 percent. Those increases have forced the libraries to drop more specialized titles.

To prevent deeper cuts, the library has shifted funding from book purchases to journal subscriptions, says science and engineering librarian Gary Fouty. "We've tried to protect the journals as much as we can because they are our lifeblood," he says.

According to chemistry professor Sanford Lipsky, chair of IT's library advisory committee, cutting 200 more journals would be disastrous for faculty and students. "Things look dire for the IT libraries," he says. "This shortage must be stopped."

Minnesota isn't alone in this predicament, says head University librarian Thomas Shaughnessy. Libraries in other Big Ten schools are facing similar cuts.

The libraries hope to raise $15 million through Campaign Minnesota to help restore lost subscriptions, but the fund-raising effort won't solve the immediate crisis.

To prevent the impending cuts, the University included an additional $4 million for the libraries in its 2002-03 legislative funding request. However, Governor Jesse Ventura cut the library funding and $161 million slated for other University priorities before forwarding the budget to the legislature. University officials and alumni are now urging legislators to restore the funding during budget deliberations.

"We can't have a quality library without a strong science collection," says Shaughnessy. "For the short-term, it's all in the legislature's hands."