Senate Agenda - EXHIBIT I - February 19, 1999


Response of the UWO Library System to the questions posed by Professor Dan Jorgensonat the Senate Meeting of 22 January 1999

Professor Jorgenson noted that "serials collections are at the heart of the library... Serials cancellations are now underway for the second year running... " and asked:

The short answer is that annual increases to the acquisitions budget of the UWO Library System are not keeping pace with annual increases in serials costs. For example, the increase in the total acquisitions budget for the current fiscal year was 5%, or about $387,000. In our budget planning for this year we estimated an increase in cost for the serials list alone of about $700,000. Expenditures to date indicate that our estimate will turn out to have been low by about $100,000.

The longer answer is that there is a crisis in scholarly communication that has been building in intensity for over a decade. At its core is the simple fact that the cost of scholarly journals is rocketing upward, possibly out of control and certainly out of reach. The attached chart shows the collective experience of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), of which the UWO Library System is a member. The 110 members of ARL are the largest research libraries in North America. As a group they have raised their serial expenditures by 142% over the last decade. It hasn't been enough. The total number of serials purchased has declined by 6%. For Canadian libraries the problem has been even more severe, because of currency exchange losses. The specific figures for the UWO Library System have been included in square brackets beside each line in the chart.

The result is that serials cancellations are the nearly universal experience on campuses throughout North America. Many university libraries have placed thoughtful discussions of the problem, along with information about their own cancellations, on their Web sites. A beginning list of useful sites can be found at Another good starting point is the University of Texas summation at For a thorough analysis of the issues from a Canadian perspective, see "The Changing World of Scholarly Communication: Challenges and Choices for Canada" at For a local perspective, see the November 1998 Newsflash at

Western has endured four serials cancellation projects in the 1990s: a cut of $467,000 in 1991/92, a cut of $255,000 in 1993/94, a cut of $455,000 in 1997/98, and a cut of $300,000 in 1998/99. For the last two years, the requested figures are:

1997/98 1998/99
Total Acquisitions Budget (including Carryforward) $7,956,641 $8,473,145
Serials Expenditure (1998/99 projected) $5,155,528 $5,775,000
Serials cancellation $455,000 $300,000
Cancellations as % of serials 8.8% 5.2%
Cancellations as % of total 5.7% 3.5%

All cuts are harmful. The twin goals of the librarians of the UWO Library System are to minimize the harm as much as possible, and to equalize the results so that all programs are still supported as strongly as possible after the cuts have taken effect. Targets for individual program areas are based on a complex set of factors and assessments, including:

The setting of targets, area by area, is an art, not a science, and is always accompanied by much agonizing and endless debate.

Once targets have been set there are extensive consultations with library committees, and with individual faculty members and researchers. Adjustments are made wherever possible, as a result of the information received.

We understand this question to refer to rising costs for library services in general - that is, to the entire budget for the UWO Library System - rather than to rising costs for just library acquisitions.

The total budget for the UWO Library System is actually considered and maintained as two separate and distinct budgets: library acquisitions, and operating costs. Thus the UWO Operating and Capital Budgets, 1998-99 document which was considered and passed by Senate in May of 1998 lists Library Acquisitions under the "Corporate Expenditures and Employee Benefit Costs" of Table 5 (page 28) and the Operating Budget for the Libraries under the "Support Areas, 1998-99 Base Budgets" of Table 4 (page 27).

The acquisitions budget has been given strong and continuing support throughout the decade. Annual increases have never been less than 5%. This represents a significant institutional commitment to the acquisitions program in an era of severe financial pressures.

The operating or base budget of the UWO Library System has been subjected to the same funding cuts as other support areas of the university. So, for example, there has been a 25% decrease in library staffing between 1990/91 and 1997/98.

The overall effect has been a significant increase in the percentage of total library expenditures which is being spent on acquisitions. In 1987/88 the UWO Library System - exactly like the median ARL library - was spending just under 35% of its total budget on acquisitions. In 1997/98 the median ARL library spent about 38% of its total budget on acquisitions. For the UWO Library System the figure had become 44%.

The cuts are in response to increases in the prices of serials. In common with other universities, Western has tried (unsuccessfully) to keep up with these rising costs.

The suggested policy of canceling serials that increase their prices above the rate of inflation would certainly eliminate the serials problem. It would also eliminate the serials list. ARL's calculation of the total increase in the Consumer Price Index for the period covered by the attached chart is 46%. (The Canadian equivalent is 32%.) The chart shows an increase in the Serial Unit Cost of 169%.

One of ARL's responses to the serials problem has been to found the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), which is an alliance of libraries to foster expanded competition in scholarly communication. In other words, ARL's position is that the serials crisis transcends libraries and requires the active participation of other sectors of the academy for its solution. The UWO Library System is a charter member of SPARC. Further information can be found at and at the more general website.

The probability is very high. Our current prediction is that our serials costs will rise by 14% or 15 % next year, which is a continuation of the trend of the past decade.

In common with all other ARL libraries, the UWO Library System reports its budget and acquisition statistics to ARL on an annual basis. All of these statistics are available for analysis at http://fisher.lib.Virginia.EDU/newarl The budget figures for Canadian libraries are converted to US dollars to facilitate comparisons with American libraries. The reported figures for the serials expenditures of the UWO Library System over the last ten years are:

Canadian $ American $
1987/88 $2,429,596 $1,894,274
1988/89 $2,383,054 $1,981,585
1989/90 $2,877,189 $2,446,798
1990/91 $3,282,453 $2,842,689
1991/92 $3,626,464 $3,120,076
1992/93 $3,643,226 $2,917,381
1993/94 $4,086,708 $3,054,113
1994/95 $4,163,755 $3,018,526
1995/96 $4,366,660 $3,207,713
1996/97 $4,681,670 $3,426,532

A graph entitled Monograph and Serial Costs in ARL Libraries, 1986-1997 is not included in this Web version but is available from the University Secretariat.