Library adjusts to budget reduction
Cutbacks have occurred across campus since the endowment plunged with the markets. One place that was hit was the Washington University library system.
In February, Chancellor Mark Wrighton sent a campus-wide e-mail regarding financial cutbacks that would take place in the coming year. After University-wide cuts in spending, libraries on campus have experienced reductions in staff and a streamlining of services.
“The library reduced their budget by a targeted amount with a combination of compensation and other expense reductions,” said Barbara Feiner, the vice chancellor for finance. “Departments approached their budget challenges by targeting efficiencies that would have the least possible effect on service levels.”
Because of the hard financial times that have fallen across the nation, 25 part-time and full-time jobs across the University were cut. Among those were the jobs of librarians. According to the chancellor’s message, 25 unfilled positions were cut as well. Reductions in staffing combined with cuts in administrative spending are expected to trim annual spending by $10 million.
Six library staff positions were lost because of budget cuts; University officials would not discuss which specific library departments were affected. They did admit that reductions were made at Olin Library and departmental libraries. University departmental libraries serve academic interests, including art and architecture, business, chemistry, and earth and planetary sciences.
“Making decisions about staff reductions is always difficult,” said Shirley Baker, vice chancellor for scholarly resources and dean of University Libraries. “However, how libraries deliver service is always changing, based on scholarly interests, user needs and technological change. So, we have a lot of practice in examining every position and redeploying staff as needs change.”
According to Baker, in addition to the six eliminated positions, several library staff members have elected to work shorter weeks or years, and the workload has been distributed among remaining staff. At times, students and faculty may experience slower service.
“Universities and libraries across the country are experiencing the same economic pressures we are here at Wash. U. It is difficult for all of us,” Baker said. “The libraries took the same budget reductions as other units of the University.”
In addition to staff losses, University Libraries will also alter some services to lessen spending. For example, fewer bound print journals will be available as more are offered online. Technology services supported by the Danforth endowment have also been trimmed because of a reduction in those funds.
“Our purchasing power for scholarly materials is reduced, and we will be working with faculty across the University to make adjustments in what we acquire,” Baker said.
To assist library staff in navigating the budget cuts, Edward Macias, provost and the executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, appointed a faculty committee to work with Baker and her staff. The committee will begin work in early April.