Budget causes Gelman to cancel book purchases

Gelman Library officials said they had to curtail book buying plans for this academic year after collection prices went up and the library failed to receive an operating budget increase. Although administrators gave GW libraries a $1 million combined annual increase last year, Gelman officials scratched about 12,000 volumes from their shopping list this year because of inflation.

The cost of buying books and maintaining electronic collections rises about 7.5 percent each year, University Librarian Jack Siggins said. He said the library requests a budget increase based on this rate to cover inflation costs, about $365,000 this year.

The library’s operating budget for books, electronic journals and other collections is $4 million.

Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman said GW looks at “priorities” each year. Because the libraries received a $1 million annual increase last year, he said the University focused on other academic areas this year.

Graduate support services, the Elliott School of International Affairs, the Law School and the honors program were given operating budget increases, while the libraries only received a “salary pool” increase.

“I’m trying to set priorities in the academic budget so that I can keep improving the academic strengths of the University,” Lehman said.

Lehman noted administrators “consider our addition of $1 million very good” and that those funds came from a tuition increase.

Now Siggins must make “priority decisions” as to what types of collections the library really needs, Lehman said.

“The librarian is charged with using that money strategically; (that’s) specifically what I directed him to do,” Lehman said. “When you have an additional million dollars to purchase books, that puts a major job (before the librarian).”

Siggins also noted “the support (from administration) has been good except for the fact it’s been erratic,” and “the University has tried very hard, especially (GW President) Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, to give as much money to the library as possible.”

Trachtenberg said the library was “badly under-funded” when he came to the University 14 years ago and has been his “highest priority.”

“The library is in better shape now than it’s ever been,” Trachtenberg said. “That extra million flung (the library) forward about four years.”

In fiscal year 2000-2001, GW had the 92nd largest holding out of the 113 largest university research libraries in the United States, according to an Aug. 9 Chronicle of Higher Education report.

Gelman ranks between Colorado State University and York University in Ontario, Canada on the list.

The rankings were based on volumes in the library, volumes added that year, current serials, permanent staff and total expenditures.

Siggins said GW moved up from 98 to 92 in 2000-2001, and the library’s $1 million increase isn’t reflected in the rankings. He said “next year we’ll be much higher” because of “an increase in the support from the University.”

“We’re making our way slowly up the ladder,” Siggins said.

Gelman officials paid for new printing and computer technology out of the library’s budget this year to implement a printing fee in all library computer labs, which required new printers and software to manage print jobs. Gelman added the fee after the Center for Academic Technologies began charging in CATS labs, including those in Gelman.

Printing costs are always in the library’s budget, but administrators hope the printing fee can “offset” some of the cost of the new equipment in that part, Lehman said.

“Up until we started charging, it was amazing how much stuff was printed out, thousands of pages,” he said. “So I think (the fee) will bring awareness to the community.”

One way to increase the library’s overall income would be to mandate the $50 voluntary library gift students currently pay with their tuition, Siggins said.

The gift is “not a luxury” and “an essential part of our resources . we are extremely dependent on,” Siggins said.

“Every single dollar we get from the voluntary gift goes directly to help improve services to the students, not salaries for the administrators,” he said. Siggins said “students suffer unfortunately” when they withhold the gift.

But Lehman said the voluntary library gift “works extremely well,” and administrators are not discussing making it mandatory “at the moment,” though officials “discuss it periodically.”

“(The gift) is just an opportunity to personally invest in the University,” he said.

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