Money for college sports at tax-funded San Diego State University has been growing at a rapid clip. Not so, the school’s library funding, according to a dire State of the Library report presented April 5 to the school’s academic senate. Librarians assert that chronic underfunding has badly hurt the university’s efforts to improve its modest academic standing.
While cash for athletics “rose 24.6 percent from $34.2 million in 2011–12 to $42.6 million in 2015–16,” the library’s budget “has been nearly static.” Says the report, “In 2014–15, unaccountably, the library budget declined by a small amount to $7.847 million. It is only in the present budget year — 2015–16 — that the library’s budget went up by a significant amount to $8.311 million, thanks to an infusion of $100,000 to the base budget for library subscriptions and more money for hiring.”
The document asserts that soaring acquisition expenses threaten to decimate book and magazine collections. “Making matters worse, the cost of periodicals [and] subscriptions has been steadily rising at an average rate of about 7 percent per year, with some popular titles rising as much as 15 percent per annum. As the library’s budget has remained largely static, these subscriptions take up more and more of the pie, resulting in a budget that cannot keep up with the rising costs of current titles, let alone purchase new titles.”
In addition, “Because periodicals take up an increasingly greater proportion of the library’s budget, the amount devoted to book purchases (still the gold standard for scholarly production in the humanities and social sciences) has declined precipitously.”
Online services have also been badly neglected, the report says. It lists eight “essential database resources that we need (especially if SDSU is to achieve its ambition of becoming a top fifty public research university) but cannot afford.”
Conclude the librarians, “We stress that we are not being alarmist: for example, the Library is about to lose its subscription to LexisNexis because the [California State University system] has decided to stop paying for it and the Library cannot afford to purchase a subscription on it is own.”