“In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, library budgets were hit hard.
Cuts were widespread and ran deep. Staff, collections, equipment and facilities at even the wealthiest institutions were affected.
While tough economic times call for all areas of an institution to tighten belts, libraries seemed to be particularly adversely impacted by the recession. Library budgets as a percentage of total institutional spending shrank, and in some places they never fully recovered.
Now, librarians are preparing for another wave of cuts, this time prompted by the economic contraction tied to the global pandemic.
“I’d be very surprised if any academic library escapes this situation without a cut or a freeze of one kind or another,” said Rick Anderson, associate dean for collections and scholarly communication at the University of Utah, in an email. “The question is how deep the cuts will be, or how long the freezes will last.”
Predicting the fiscal impact of COVID-19 on higher education institutions at this stage is impossible, Anderson said. “We don’t even know for certain if our campus will be open for normal business by August or September of this year,” he said.
The best-case scenario on most campuses is for budgets to remain static for the 2021 financial year, Anderson said. But he describes this is as a “highly optimistic scenario, one that assumes business as usual in the upcoming academic year, and minimal drop-offs in enrollment.”
A more likely scenario involves “significant cuts to ongoing budget allocations imposed across campus units, with specific campus directives as to how those cuts will be directed to personnel.”
Institutions such as the University of Virginia have already started to implement institutionwide hiring freezes as part of their effort to minimize the possible economic impact of COVID-19.
In a message to the campus, university president Jim Ryan pledged that the burden of cost cutting would be shared across the institution. All schools and units will cut or eliminate nonessential expenses. The university’s executive leadership team will take a 10 percent salary reduction, and capital projects that haven’t already started are on hold…”
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Tom is originally from Brooklyn N.Y but has spent his entire professional career in South Carolina, most recently as Head of Reference Services at the College of Charleston. As part of the Against the Grain and Charleston Conference team, he serves as the associate editor of the print ATG as well as the co-editor of the webpage. Tom’s conference duties include coordinating the Penthouse Suite interviews as well as the conference poster sessions.
He received his MLS from the University of Buffalo, SUNY and a second master’s in public administration from the College of Charleston and the Univ. of South Carolina. His wife Carol and he live in downtown Charleston and she is an artist and a tour guide offering historic walking tours of the city.