2013-2014 Annual Report
C-7 University of Texas Libraries Committee
The committee had a busy year: we met four times in the fall semester and five times in the spring. We greatly appreciate the help of UT Libraries staff in support of our work.
One of the key topics that the committee discussed throughout the year was the libraries budget. A new directive from the Board of Regents calling for the University to develop a five-year projection that showed a balanced budget with all recurring expenses met by recurring funds proved to be a challenge, as earlier libraries budget planning had expected to draw on non-recurring funds to meet some expenses. Furthermore, meeting the continuing rise in the cost of periodical and database subscriptions (a 5.75% annual inflation rate is projected) in a period of tight budgets throughout the University also will be difficult. At present, the provost’s office plans no new allocation of funds for libraries from the central administration for at least three years: this means that, given the projected increase in subscription costs, the libraries budget will have fallen short by $1.5 million of the amount needed to maintain its current level of service by the end of the 2016-17 fiscal year and an additional $645,000 will be required the following year to restore the budget to account for the inflation index. If there are no new allocations over the entire five-year period, the budget will have effectively shrunk by 28.5%. There will inevitably be an impact on all libraries’ functions – collections, public services, and support operations – and upon teaching and research. The committee informed itself on these matters and will need to continue to monitor the situation and to discuss how the libraries can best absorb the impact of fiscal constraints while maintaining the level of excellence that we all expect.
A second important topic that the committee concerned itself with during the fall semester was Open Access and the University’s policy concerning the electronic deposit of theses and dissertations (ETDs). These matters are a concern as the libraries manage the UT Digital Repository, which provides open, on-line access to the products of the University’s research and scholarship. We learned that a number of research universities have adopted policies supportive of Open Access, with some providing funds to cover author fees that are sometimes charged by open access journals. This might prove to be a saving response to the cost inflation of academic journals, though here at UT faculty are, in general, not well-informed regarding these issues. On the other hand, electronic deposit of theses and dissertations is a requirement at the University, with the option of requesting an embargo on a case-by-case basis. Policies regarding embargo practices for ETDs have raised a great deal of concern throughout the academic community in recent years, and a number of scholarly organizations have issued statements on the matter. From our discussions, it became clear that the ramifications of these matters are complicated and vary substantially across academic disciplines. While the UT Libraries do not set policy here, it is important that they understand and follow University policies and include as part of the digital repository a clear statement of what those policies are. Without doubt, these are matters to which the committee will return in future.
At our December meeting, Fred Heath, the vice provost and director of UT Libraries, informed the committee of his plans to retire, effective 31 August 2014. One of the express responsibilities of the committee is “to advise the president in the event it becomes necessary to appoint a new librarian,” and this became the committee’s primary concern during the spring semester. In January, we met with the provost, Gregory Fenves, to discuss the search process and the qualifications for the new libraries director, and in subsequent meetings we addressed the make-up of the search committee, the search schedule, and the profile of an ideal candidate for the position. Additionally, the chair of the committee met separately with senior library administrative staff, representatives of the Libraries Staff Council, and the Library Advisory Council to discuss the search and to inform himself on challenges facing the new libraries director. The search is ongoing, and the UT Libraries Committee is represented on the search committee by Michael Winship and Loriene Roy (current & incoming chairs), as well as David Leal and Warren Hunt (former chairs).
The primary charge of the committee is “to become well informed concerning the functions of the University of Texas Libraries, including the branch libraries,” and over the course of the year we did this in many ways. We held meetings in the Life Sciences Library (MAI 220) and Architecture & Planning Library (Battle Hall) in order to learn more about them. We also heard presentations on the plans for establishing a new Collaborative Learning Commons in PCL, the University Libraries Poetry Center, the Human Rights Documentation Initiative managed by the libraries, the libraries’ digital curation of the Mappa Mundi project, and current plans for UT Libraries development. We also gathered and reviewed information on current plans for providing library services for the new Dell Medical School.
Michael Winship, chair