Appraising Our Past, Charting Our Future

Introduction Highlights, Special Events & Awards Fiscal Operations Public Services
Collection & Acquisitions Services Technical Services Personnel Facilities Marketing & Outreach

 

FISCAL OPERATIONS

Materials Budget
Personnel Budget
Professional Development/Training Budget

 

Materials Budget

The Seattle University Law Library, like most other academic law libraries, has suffered from dramatic price inflation in the purchasing and licensing of information. While the materials budget has consistently received 5-6% increases for the past several years, these increases are outstripped by the average 10-15% inflation in legal publishing costs. Over 90% of the Law Library materials budget is allocated to keeping our existing collection current through on-going purchases (e.g., subscriptions to online databases, periodicals, reporters, statutes and loose leaf services; materials with supplementation and pocket parts) with the remainder applied to one-time purchases (e.g., monographs, videos, interlibrary loans). There is little flexibility in how the Library can spend these funds due to the existing budget commitment, making the library budget vulnerable to price inflation in an increasingly monopolistic legal publishing industry.

Budget increases have not kept pace with yearly price increases in legal publications. An increase of any amount less than 10% actually results in a net loss of purchasing power for the Library, prompting aggressive cancellations and selective purchasing and affecting the Library’s ability to provide necessary resources.

ABA statistics consistently place Seattle University Law Library in the fourth tier for materials expenditures per student FTE and, in fact, for the last few years have ranked the Library in the bottom 5% of law schools for materials expenditures per FTE.

ABA Report Year SU Law Library Materials Per FTE SU Law Library Ranking Mean for Law Libraries with 300,000-400,000 collections
1998 $1006.04 128 (3rd quartile) $1290.70
1999 $957.89 150 (4th quartile) $1423.99
2000 $910.70 170 (4th quartile) $1536.00
2001 $946.93 170 (4th quartile) $1610.00
2002 $908.00 176 (4th quartile) $1664.00
2003 $914.00 182 (4th quartile) $1750.00

Other areas which present on-going challenges include the personnel and professional development budgets.

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Personnel Budget

As our constituent base continues to grow, new services are offered and existing services are expanded, it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain our high level of service without additional staffing. Statistically our staffing levels, both professional and paraprofessional, fall far below the national average for academic law libraries. With six professional public and technical services librarians, the 2003 ABA statistics place the Seattle University Law Library as 134 of 188 law schools when comparing professional staff levels.

On a positive note, recognizing the need for an additional librarian, the Law School administration allocated funds for a part-time temporary reference position beginning spring 2004. While this part-time position is certainly a step in the right direction, the Library continues to be hard pressed to maintain, let alone expand, library services as needed and as expected.

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Professional Development/Training Budget

Over the last few years, all libraries have witnessed significant changes in information delivery. Information acquisition, information synthesis, information navigation and information archiving are all becoming increasingly technology dependent. While advances in technology facilitate and enhance the Library's information delivery capabilities, incorporating these new technologies requires a large investment in human resources, management and training. New systems necessitate continuous and challenging learning opportunities for librarians and staff.

Both librarians and library staff are encouraged to participate in professional organizations and activities. The current professional development budget enables librarians to attend and/or participate in one national conference or workshop per year on average, leaving very little funds to support staff training. Nonetheless, many staff have obtained additional technical training by attending and participating in local and regional conferences, as well as a variety of in-house, campus and online seminars.

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Aspirations/Challenges

While some libraries are struggling to maintain their collections and services with "flat" budgets, the Law Library has been fortunate to consistently receive a yearly 5% materials budget increase. Nonetheless we are losing ground. As library operations become increasingly technology dependent, the percentage of materials budget funds underwriting the cost of equipment is also rising, thereby leaving less funds allocated to traditional acquisitions (books, videos, databases, etc). Annual increases of 10-15% in the Law Library materials budget would allow the Library to maintain the strength of our existing collection, while at the same time adding resources to support the Law School’s expanding curricular, programmatic and research areas.

While the Law Library has invested sizeable funds in equipment, resources and facility, we currently do not adequately fund the educational enrichment of our staff who bring all of these components together. It is hoped that informational publications such as this online report, our weekly Prolific Reporter articles and the quarterly Law Library Newsletter will heighten awareness regarding the fiscal realities surrounding library operations, and that future budgets will reflect the importance of providing the technical training necessary to maintain high quality operations and services.