FAQ: Budget Deficits and Cancellations

Isn’t everything available online for free?

No. Most of the online resources that our scholars use are paid for by the library through subscriptions and licenses. These resources are usually quite expensive. Many disciplines also still rely heavily on print material.

Why has the buying power of the library’s budget decreased?

This is the result of several issues. One issue is currency fluctuation. Many of the resources we purchase come from outside of Canada. When currency and exchange rates change, this can result in resource costs increasing. Another issue is inflation. The inflation rate on average can be as high as 7%-11% a year and the library’s collection budget is static. As well, some materials that have price increases beyond the inflation rate every year, making it even more difficult to find ongoing funds for these materials. Academic journals from commercial publishers are an example of this.

Why are commercial academic journals so expensive?

Journal subscription prices have increased steadily over the last few decades.  Journals produced by commercial publishers are also about 5 times the price of those published by professional or academic societies.  New journals are created frequently, and the cost of existing journal subscriptions are increasing at rates beyond the inflation rate.

Take a look at the following articles for more information about scholarly journal pricing:

The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) also has a webpage devoted to journal pricing.

Will open access help reduce costs?

UBC Library supports open access authors, editors and researchers at UBC. Open access is a new model of scholarly publishing in which material is available online free of charge. The existence of alternative models of scholarly publishing may start to put pressure on commercial publishers to change and reduce costs and may reduce the problem of libraries having to purchase the results of the research produced at their institution.

Can we use endowments to purchase more materials?

96% of the library’s collection expenditure is from the operating budget. Endowments count for only a small percentage of the budget.

How is the library reducing collection expenses?

Due to this reduced buying power, the Library’s collection strategy has to be very focused. The library will review all collecting practices. This will mean:

  • Avoiding duplication in content.
  • Review serials, monographs and database for overlapping and redundant content
  • Reducing the number of serial subscriptions and standing orders each year that no longer support the research, teaching and curriculum
  • Transition from print to online and drop print serial subscriptions when reasonable
  • Rely more strongly on gifts for special collection development
  • Rely more on ILL and document delivery

Where are the gaps in the collections budget?

The Library will need to take steps to keep collections expenditures within the allotted budget. The areas of focus for collection building will include: e-journal backfiles, data collections, digital collections, patron driven acquisitions and interdisciplinary studies.

What are the challenges to a sustainable budget?

Each year the library continues to purchase new materials. Finding funding for new materials, including items such as special collections, data collections, and digital and print monographs, is more difficult as the focus tends to be on highly-used continuing resources such as serials and databases. The library also gets asked to support new curriculum areas and research, requiring a significant investment in new materials.

Maintaining digital access to e-resources that support university research and curriculum is also extremely important, and costly. The prices for serials and databases continue to increase beyond the standard inflation rate. Currency exchange rates continue to fluctuate and are often unpredictable, leading to differences between projected and real expenditures.

UBC Library is also dedicated to preserving access to and acquisition of unique library materials. These are the resources that make our library special, offering access to material not held anywhere else in the world.

Of great importance to creating a sustainable budget is demonstrating the value and investment of the collections to the university.