Friday, September 17, 2010

Money, money, money (oh, how we long for filthy lucre...)

I belong to a listserv for Community College Librarians (yes we will be taking over the world, Real Soon Now, and there will be food and alcohol - leave your sensible shoes stereotypes behind, folks), and one of the truly great features about it is the ability to post questions and get responses from colleagues all over the country. It is frequently very informative, often somewhat surprising, and not infrequently funny, intentionally or otherwise.

But a thread that started yesterday made me want to take up the bottle again. A colleague posted a comment/question about how much institutions spend per FTE on print library materials. By the time that I started writing this morning, I had seen numbers ranging from $16/FTE to $65/FTE from places from coast to coast. In some cases, the numbers included what libraries spent on print periodicals, in some cases not - FWIW, the $65/FTE figure did NOT include periodicals. I groaned, somewhat audibly. But I felt a duty to help anyone out there who was feeling that their print budget was somehow inadequate - so I did the math and then posted OUR numbers.

Get ready... try not to faint... $9.53/FTE for books (which goes to $13.49/FTE including periodicals).To put that in tangible terms, that's a trade paperback copy of a recent novel purchased at a discount price. Unfortunately, most academic books cost a little more than that. [In the interest of full disclosure, someone just posted an even lower number than we have - bigger budget, but LOTS more students]

OK. We have a really good collection of databases for a library of our size (funded by the students through a fee). It's not exactly apples-to-apples comparisons. And I know exactly how bad the budgetary times are. But students complain that we don't have enough books to do assignments with. We just had to shrink our stacks collection by about 20% for a renovation project, and at this rate, it will take about 6 years to make that up if we don't weed another book during that time.

Barkeep, make that a double. And keep 'em coming.

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