Higher serial costs, weakened loonie decimate Library's purchasing
The U of S Library could lose up to $250,000 in purchasing power
of the devalued Canadian dollar, says director of libraries
The loss comes at a time when the Library is already struggling with
rising serial costs and has been forced to cancel $1.35 million of journal
subscriptions over the last two years.
"We can't go on like this," he says.
"It isn't sustainable."
While the University has exempted the Library's acquisition budget from
recent cuts - and increased the budget by 5% in both 1997-98 and
1998-99 - serial costs are predicted to rise by more than $470,000 in the
In a report submitted to University Council in June,
the Library Committee anticipates further cancellations of $320,000.
Recent drops in the Canadian dollar have made the situation
even worse, says Winter. Most scholarly information is imported and
priced in U.S. dollars. And in recent weeks, the loonie dropped
roughly 6% against the benchmark U.S. dollar.
The U of S Library spends more than $4 million annually
on journals and over $1 million on books.
"We pay for most journals a year in advance, so we're just paying
for our 1999 periodicals," says Winter, adding that the
Canadian Association of Research Libraries estimates that its 27 members
lost nearly $6 million this year to currency devaluation.
"The loss of access to scholarly
literature is extremely harmful to the ability of faculty and students to
with current scholarship and progress in their learning and
research," he adds.
The Library Committee's report to Council points to a number of
possible solutions. These include the increased sharing of resources and
with other university libraries and public libraries.
Across western Canada, 15 university libraries are creating the Council
of Prairie and Pacific University Libraries (COPPUL) Virtual Western
Canadian University Library (VWCUL).
When completed, VWCUL will let users approach all 15 libraries as
one entity and directly request books and journal articles.
The most recent feature, called GODOT, allows users to
search article databases and also discover which COPPUL library owns
the journal. A loan request is then sent directly to the appropriate
This process is fast and cheap.
The U of S Library is also examining a partial transition
to electronic journals, which are generally no less expensive but
can provide increased access for the same amount of money.
Meanwhile, many university libraries have begun advocating
the use of scholarly rather than
commercial journals, and faculty members can help in the
By placing articles in scholarly journals and by refusing to
review articles or serve on the editorial boards of commercial journals,
the libraries hope to decrease their long-term subscription costs.
The Canadian dollar's decline is also being felt
campus-wide, according to Gwen Toole, manager of Purchasing.
Purchases of scientific, dental, medical, and
veterinary equipment are among those most affected by the
currency devaluation, she says.
"People are looking to us [Purchasing] to do more.
There's going to be more pressure on us to go through a formal
bid process, or through tenders and proposals."
However, she notes that purchases are generally based
on the total acquisition costs, which include factors such as
quality, shipping costs, customs, duty, and disposal costs.
- Dale Worobec
Frank Winter in his office. Serials to
rise $470,000 in the next