Faculty members in Kansas University’s history department have expressed their dissatisfaction with one recommendation of KU’s “Changing for Excellence” initiative involving demand-driven acquisition of library materials.
Paul Kelton, chairman of the history department, signed a resolution approved by the department’s faculty members that expressed concerns about the practice.
“Excellent library collections are not a luxury; they are an essential component of academic excellence,” the resolution reads. “We understand that budget for the libraries cannot be increased in the current financial climate, but we must dissent from the Huron Group’s recommendation that the library’s (printed materials) budget suffer more cuts.”
Demand-driven acquisitions, as the libraries used it during an 18-month pilot program, involves lowering the threshold at which a librarian will choose to purchase a book for KU’s collections, said Rebecca Smith, a spokeswoman for KU libraries. Some books aren’t purchased, but are listed in the catalogue and include an option where users can request that the libraries buy the book. Typically, it arrives after two to five days, she said.
Kelton, however, said that in some cases, faculty members won’t become aware of a book until it’s out of print. He said researchers depend on a trained library faculty to stay ahead of the book-purchasing curve.
The recommendation came in one of the business cases presented for KU’s review by the Huron Consulting Group, an outside consulting firm looking for ways KU can cut back on costs. KU administrators are reviewing several business cases presented by the Huron group before deciding which ones to actively pursue.
The next town hall meeting with the Huron group is set from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Nov. 7, at as-yet undetermined locations in the Kansas Union. KU plans to unveil the business cases it intends to pursue no later than at that event.
Smith said the libraries finished the 18-month pilot program in June and examined how demand-driven acquisitions worked in five disciplines — education, engineering, business, economics and political science. The libraries are still evaluating the effectiveness of the pilot project, she said.
She said the libraries had plans to expand the practice to social and behavioral sciences, as well as in other areas of science and technology, but not in the humanities or area studies. She could not, however, speak to the recommendations of the Huron team, as KU has not yet decided which business cases to pursue.
While the libraries’ budget has remained essentially flat, the costs of acquiring materials continues to increase — sometimes at a rate of 10 times the cost of inflation, Smith said. Still, she said the libraries remain committed to their primary goal of supporting teaching, research and learning across the campus.
“Even outside this Changing for Excellence exercise, we recognize that we have a financial situation that needs to be addressed,” she said. “At some point, we have to buy less.”
The history department’s resolution acknowledged that current plans don’t call for the expansion of the practice into the humanities, but Kelton said the department’s faculty wanted to express its concerns about the expansion of the practice.