Due to budget cuts, Binghamton University Libraries have been forced to cancel subscriptions to many academic titles and journals.
BU is in the midst of a budgetary crisis, in part because of pay raises given to faculty members under a new union contract. The University planned to increase its student enrollment to cover the costs of these raises. However, the University was unable to close the gap in its budget, and the result is an almost $500,000 cut to library funding — roughly 4 percent of its current $13 million budget. Thus, University Libraries had to purge costly journals and resources. It is unclear why so much funding was cut from the libraries — the crux of an academic institution.
The final list of cuts was published Nov. 2 and shows that some departments were hit harder than others. Not even large and popular departments were spared from the cuts. Political science, for example, faces extensive cuts to some of its main databases. Those who decided which periodicals would be cut do seem to have considered the opinions of department heads; Nancy Um, chair of the art history department, said that University Libraries sent a list of titles that might be canceled, giving her department the opportunity to discuss them and request that imperative items be retained. Students, too, received an automated email from Curtis Kendrick, dean of University Libraries, asking them to participate in a survey about which library resources they use most. Nevertheless, not everything, of course, can be saved, and the uneven distribution is unfair to the departments that suffered the most losses.
The effects of the cuts are already being felt across campus. Many student workers, who rely on their paychecks for rent and tuition, among other things, have seen their hours slashed. Some professors report having to use databases from other institutions, such as those that they worked at previously, because BU could not provide them with what they needed. The effects on both professors and graduate students conducting research is not yet fully known. They affiliate themselves with institutions of higher education in order to have these resources at their disposal. Even though University Libraries are cutting lesser-used subscriptions, there are still people who depend on them, and where can these academic sources be found, if not in a University library?
It is worth noting that students and faculty can use the Interlibrary Loan system to borrow necessary texts from other institutions. This, however, only puts more work and stress on the students, making it more difficult for us to do work and complete assignments. Additionally, it takes time to request and obtain these resources, and students who wish to get an Interlibrary Loan must be thinking about an assignment weeks ahead of the due date. Students are already required to purchase all of their class textbooks and books, so these cuts provide yet another obstacle to learning.
Additionally, the University will be investing $20 million from their critical maintenance funds into library renovations over the next couple years. Nevertheless, these funds can only be used for remodeling the library, and will not replace the money being lost because of the budget cuts, which could go towards salaries and resources.
The Editorial Board wonders what these cuts will spread to next. Will the library continue to see cuts in coming years? These concerns also raise questions about the University’s overall budget. Where does the money that funds University Libraries come from? Why does the University have money for some projects but not for books — a staple to college education? Though we acknowledge that some of BU’s funding is earmarked for particular projects and departments, it is impossible to tell where the money comes from. The budget is so convoluted that even administrators find it difficult to understand and explain. Students deserve to know how the University’s money is being spent, especially because much of said money comes from the tuition that we pay.
The bottom line is that libraries are the center of an academic institution. If BU wants to call itself the “premier public ivy” and place itself at the same level as private schools like Boston University, New York University and Cornell University, it needs to recognize that cutting library resources is not the path to becoming a top school. The first step to gaining prestige is making sure the University’s academics are up to par. This undoubtedly means prioritizing libraries.