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

  • Former Wisconsin police chief to review Jacob Blake shooting

    World News CTV News
    MADISON, WIS. -- Wisconsin's attorney general announced Monday that he has selected a former Madison police chief to serve as an independent consultant for prosecutors weighing whether to file charges against the officer who shot Jacob Blake, a Black man who was left paralyzed from the waist down. Source
  • Police release footage after officers shoot 13-year-old boy with autism

    World News CTV News
    SALT LAKE CITY -- A 13-year-old Utah boy with autism was shot by police after his mother asked for help getting him hospital mental-health treatment and officers agreed to talk with him, police footage released Monday showed. Source
  • Manhattan DA seeking Trump's taxes cites 'mountain' of allegations

    World News CTV News
    NEW YORK -- The Manhattan district attorney's office told a federal appeals court Monday that its quest to gain access to U.S. President Donald Trump's tax returns is supported by "a mountainous record" of public allegations of misconduct. Source
  • Some Republicans see bad news for Trump in Ohio suburbs

    World News CTV News
    COLUMBUS, OHIO -- Peggy Lehner, a Republican state senator in Ohio, doesn't sugarcoat what she has seen happen to support for U.S. President Donald Trump in her suburban Dayton district. "It hasn't ebbed. It's crashed," said Lehner, who is not seeking reelection in the district of working-class and white-collar communities the president won comfortably four years ago. Source
  • Some Toronto elementary students may not have a teacher for first day of virtual classes

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Some Toronto elementary students may have to begin their virtual learning independently if they log in Tuesday morning and find that a teacher hasn’t been assigned to them. On Monday, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) said in an update to parents of elementary students that it is still hiring staff for virtual classrooms, despite tomorrow’s start date. Source
  • Deadline for absentee ballots in battleground Wisconsin extended to 6 days after Nov. 3

    World News CBC News
    A U.S. federal judge ruled Monday that absentee ballots in battleground Wisconsin can be counted up to six days after the Nov. 3 presidential election as long as they are postmarked by election day. The highly anticipated ruling, unless overturned, means that the outcome of the presidential race in Wisconsin likely will not be known for days after polls close. Source
  • U.S. Justice Department threatens to strip federal funds from cities it says allow 'anarchy'

    World News CBC News
    The U.S. Justice Department on Monday threatened to revoke federal funding for New York City, Seattle and Portland, Ore., saying the three liberal cities were allowing anarchy and violence on their streets. "We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted when the safety of the citizenry hangs in the balance," Attorney General William Barr said in a statement. Source
  • Desert homes threatened by enormous California wildfire

    World News CTV News
    JUNIPER HILLS, CALIF. -- An enormous wildfire that churned through mountains northeast of Los Angeles and into the Mojave Desert was still threatening homes on Monday, but officials said calmer winds could help crews corral the flames. Source
  • 'It happened in a split second': Court documents reveal details in wounding of RCMP officer during N.S. mass shooting

    Canada News CTV News
    HALIFAX -- Court documents released by a judge's order today contain more details surrounding the horrific mass killings that took place in Nova Scotia's Colchester County this past April, including what an injured RCMP officer witnessed as he was approached and shot by the gunman. Source
  • Halifax professor recalls growing up with Belarusian opposition leader

    World News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Pro-democracy protests continue to grip Belarus, and one woman is known around the world for leading the calls for change. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya is the country's opposition leader, currently living in exile after violence broke out six weeks ago. Source