University libraries struggle to stock journals priced in U.S. dollars

TORONTO -- Students and faculty at some of Canada's post-secondary schools may soon have a tougher time doing research because the low loonie is forcing libraries to rethink what journals and books they stock.

See Full Article

"The drop in the loonie has definitely decreased our purchasing power," Jo Anne Newyear-Ramirez, the associate university librarian for collections management at the University of British Columbia library, said in an interview.

Journal subscriptions are often priced in U.S. dollars, and most university libraries pay for a majority of their collection purchases in American dollars.

When the loonie started dropping against the U.S. dollar in the 2013-14 fiscal year, Newyear-Ramirez said, UBC library cancelled about $1.2 million worth of journal subscriptions.

This year, the library halted some of its buying, she said, and plans to cancel more journals in the next fiscal year beginning April 1.

It's "really tough" to decide what to cancel, said Newyear-Ramirez, who adds the library has already cut any material that may not have a direct impact if unavailable.

"I really feel if we have to do any further cancellations, it is going to affect folks," she said, adding she's petitioned the university for more funding.

The library is not alone in its conundrum.

"We're all facing the same issue," Newyear-Ramirez said, adding she often speaks to colleagues at universities across Canada about operational cost woes.

Many of the Ontario Council of University Libraries' 21 members anticipated spending eight to 12 per cent less in the upcoming year, the OCUL said in an open letter this past summer.

Multiple members have already enacted varying degrees of cutbacks.

Western University libraries, for example, announced in December that they froze new serials subscriptions, reduced book purchases and cancelled some serials to help reduce spending for this fiscal year and the next.

Despite the University of Ottawa library receiving a onetime $500,000 budget top-up, it still had to trim more than $560,000 in serials and database costs, the library announced in July. It warned that additional cuts may be required in the 2016-17 fiscal year.

Some universities' libraries have managed to keep their subscriptions so far, but are still feeling some financial strain.

The University of Toronto libraries, for example, prepared reserve funds in anticipation of a low loonie, said Caitlin Tillman, the associate chief librarian for collections and materials management. Still, she's noticed a "substantial" difference in cost when paying U.S.-dollar invoices this year.

While she's yet to cancel any subscriptions, Tillman said the library will be unable to purchase a lot of the special collections, like works at the Thomas Fisher rare book library, that it's been able to afford in the past.

"As a cultural institution, we really are taking a hit."

What if the loonie drops to below 60 cents US, as predicted by some doomsayers? "That'll be tight," Tillman said.

Such cuts can damage a university's reputation, she added, and make it more difficult for faculty and students to conduct their research.

And when it comes to purchasing library materials, Newyear-Ramirez said the loonie is only part of a bigger problem: the quick pace at which academic journal prices tend to rise. Librarians have coined the steeply rising prices the serials crisis.

Since 2009, Newyear-Ramirez said, the UBC library has trimmed about $3.6 million in journal subscriptions.

"Even if we were to have a strong dollar again, I think you would still hear that we're having issues with the pricing around this material."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Passenger train partly derails in Australia, killing 2

    World News CTV News
    SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA -- Several cars on a passenger train derailed in southeastern Australia, killing two operators and injuring 12 other people, police said. The train was heading from Sydney to Melbourne late Thursday when part of it came off the tracks in Victoria state near Wallan. Source
  • Wet'suwet'en chiefs to spend Friday with Mohawk supporters in Ontario

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- A group of hereditary leaders from the Wet'suwet'en Nation in British Columbia is to spend the day with Mohawk supporters in Ontario. The B.C. hereditary chiefs are thanking the Mohawks for supporting them in opposition to a pipeline project on their traditional territory by blocking a critical rail line between Toronto and Montreal. Source
  • First round of Wuhan evacuees to be released from quarantine today

    Canada News CTV News
    Full coverage CTVNews.ca/Coronavirus First round of Wuhan evacuees to be released from quarantine today As Canadians from cruise ship fly home, those who tested positive can only wait Source
  • Thai court orders popular opposition party dissolved

    World News CTV News
    BANGKOK -- Thailand's constitutional Court on Friday ordered the popular opposition Future Forward Party dissolved, declaring that it violated election law by accepting a loan from its leader. The court also imposed a 10-year ban on the party's executive members holding political office. Source
  • Latino voters can make or break Democratic campaigns. They're about to get their say in 2020

    World News CBC News
    Latino voters turned the course of the Democratic presidential primaries in 2016. They're about to get their say in 2020. Starting this weekend in Nevada, followed just over a week later by the delegate-bountiful states of California and Texas, Hispanic voters will play a make-or-break role. Source
  • Be warned, Conservatives: a failed leadership bid is not a career-builder

    Canada News CBC News
    There are two types of candidates vying for the Conservative leadership — those who have a plausible chance of winning and those who don't. Only the second category is getting larger. Maybe the people in this second group think they can pull off an unlikely upset. Source
  • Government asking for an extra $2.1 billion for Indigenous programs

    Canada News CBC News
    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government is asking Parliament to spend an additional $2.1 billion on Indigenous programs and initiatives, above and beyond what MPs already have approved. While $2 billion of the proposed spending for Indigenous services would be new money, supplementary estimates tabled in Parliament show that more than $53 million in net transfers from various departments would go to a wide range of Indigenous programs and projects. Source
  • Grief, anger and calls for action after shooting in Germany

    World News CTV News
    BERLIN -- Thousands have gathered in cities across Germany to hold vigils for the victims of a racially motivated shooting, amid growing calls for authorities to crack down on far-right extremism. A 43-year-old German man shot dead nine people of immigrant background in the Frankfurt suburb of Hanau Wednesday before killing his mother and himself. Source
  • Iran votes in parliament elections that favour conservatives

    World News CTV News
    TEHRAN, IRAN -- Iranians were voting for a new parliament Friday, with turnout seen as a key measure of support for Iran's leadership as sanctions weigh on the economy and isolate the country diplomatically. The disqualification of more than 7,000 potential candidates, most of them reformists and moderates, raised the possibility of lower-than-usual turnout. Source
  • Charter flight carrying quarantined cruise passengers lands at CFB Trenton

    Canada News CBC News
    The charter plane carrying more than 200 Canadian passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship has landed at CFB Trenton in Ontario. The plane, which touched down just after 2 a.m. ET, was carrying passengers from the cruise liner that was quarantined in Yokohama, Japan since early February due to an outbreak of COVID-19, which is caused by the coronavirus. Source