Library cuts threaten research

Earlier this month, New Mexico State University (NMSU) library announced the cancellation of over 700 journal and database subscriptions, the result of a perfect storm of rising journal prices and a slashed materials budget. It is the latest, but not the largest, in a procession of research libraries to chop, slash and hack their subscription lists in response to significant budget cuts. Now, tensions are rising as scientists speak out against library cuts and how they will affect research.

Library at York University

“The lifeblood of a university is its library, and cutting library resources is like cutting off oxygen to the brain,” said Robert Buckingham, a long-time epidemiologist at NMSU and now dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Saskatchewan. “Without this lifeblood, the university will falter and fail.”

The economic downturn is hitting libraries and hitting them hard. A 2009 global surveyof 835 libraries in 61 countries found that nearly one-third of academic libraries saw their budgets reduced by 10 percent or more that year. And journal subscriptions are taking the brunt of that loss: The University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) cancelled 118 print and 115 online subscriptions for 2010, as well as several databases (including Faculty of 1000 Medicine, publisher ofThe Scientist). 

Last spring, the University of Washington announced cuts of 1,600 print and electronic journals, databases, and microforms. The University of Virginia library sliced 1,169 journals, the University of Arizona downsized by 650 print and electronic titles, and Georgia State University cut 441 and is now considering the fate of another 1,092. The list goes on and on.

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