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Library materials budget is under pressure, Keller reports

Steep increases in the cost of library materials pose a threat to the continued growth of Stanford's relatively young library collection, Michael Keller, university librarian, told the Faculty Senate on Thursday, Oct. 2.

Last year, the cost of library materials went up more than 11 percent. But the budget for Stanford's collections was increased only by 7 percent. "This model is not sustainable," said Keller, who hopes a fundraising campaign and enterprise business ventures such as HighWire Press and the soon-to-be-built coffee kiosk next to Green Library will help offset some of these costs.

The stiffest increases have occurred in the sciences and technology disciplines for which the largest share (44.5 percent) of the library materials budget is devoted, he said. There also have been "severe" increases in digital information costs, he added. Nexis-Lexis, for example, recently informed the university that it was going to raise its service fee 10-fold.

"The last we heard was that this increase was going to be parceled out over a number of years," Keller said. "That means that this year, the cost will only be double."

Faculty can help curb these spiraling costs, Keller said, by giving first refusal rights of their articles and books to scholarly society publishers, university presses and "responsible" publishers, whose price increases are small and whose value to universities is high.

Keller also encouraged faculty to search and browse journals online. "We have many cases where we have multiple copies of heavily used journals across campus," he said. "If we can replace those multiple copies with a digital copy for the campus, we can save some money."

The library staff has been working at a feverish pace to "re-engineer" the Stanford libraries, Keller said. They are collecting and cataloging common items more efficiently and uncommon ones more effectively; training readers, in particular undergraduates, to be more self-sufficient in basic research; and providing readers advanced reference and research services.

HighWire Press, a new division of Stanford libraries that works with scientific publications to produce online journals, expands the potential to enhance scholarly communication and reduce the cost of distributing scientific information. It currently "earns its keep," Keller said, and has the potential to turn a profit that could help support other parts of the library system.

Stanford's collection is relatively young, said Keller, who noted that efforts to increase its material holdings began after WWII. He said it ranks ninth among library systems at other large research universities in the nation. When asked by a faculty member if he was satisfied with this ranking, Keller responded: "As long as we can be responsive to you and receptive to you, I am satisfied."

In other business, the senate heard an annual report from the Committee on Academic Appraisal and Achievement. Discussion centered on undergraduate academic issues such as the benefits of instituting a pre-registration system and the use of the "A+" letter grade among professors and departments. Both issues will be re-visited by the senate in the future.


By Marisa Cigarroa

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