Annual Budget Meeting
Each year, the provost meets with each school or college in an annual budget meeting, and the University Library is included in that process. While the provost takes a more nuts-and-bolts approach in a separate review process with administrative units, as academic units we are asked to speak to strategic issues, both for our unit and for the university as a whole. Our annual meeting was held on March 13, and I’m pleased to say that it was a very positive one.
The format of the meeting itself is structured around a presentation by the dean, addressing strategic priorities and associated challenges, followed by a discussion about ways the provost can help the unit address challenges and opportunities. The Library’s budget document, shared with you on January 16th and available online (Budget Report for FY19_final_libnews), is the background for the meeting. It is carefully reviewed by the provost, vice provosts, and key staff, and we usually have some questions as a result of the document. Bill Mischo and the rest of the administrative group did an outstanding job preparing the budget document, which raised key issues and presented important data.
The meeting was a wonderful opportunity not simply to present information about our impact and challenges, but to engage with the provost’s office in meaningful discussions about the work of the Library. I was pleased to have an opportunity to discuss the richness of the collections and use of them, but also to note the way that diminished support for collections has affected our ability to serve the campus. I discussed the way that our services enhance the research of the university, notably contributing to new enterprises, and the way that our instructional work and activities like peer tutoring lead to greater student success. I foregrounded the continuing creative work with our existing spaces, but noted the way that limited financial support and deferred maintenance has limited us in doing more.
There was meaningful recognition of our success and challenges, and an engaged discussion about the evolving scholarly communication ecosystem. For example, we discussed the growing use by publishers of Article Processing Charges (APCs), the impact of collection inflation on our buying power, and the contributions we make to successful grant-getting at the university. We had a brief but productive discussion about continuing challenges with our buildings, but that also afforded us an opportunity to acknowledge and show appreciation for the generous support we’ve seen in the last several years, e.g., from the student Academic Facilities Maintenance Fund Assessment (AFMFA) fee.
As the meeting concluded, I requested specific support for collections and for the building project I discussed in last month’s LON. For FY19, I have requested a substantial infusion of cash—some recurring—to help us make up lost ground in collections, and proposed a strategy for addressing the cost of collections going forward. Preliminary conversations with Provost Cangellaris and Vice Provost Ellinger give me hope that we’re likely to get this support. I also requested a variety of forms of campus support for the building project. Provost Cangellaris offered advice about connections on campus that reinforce a perspective that he and I share that the project can significantly advance a broad set of interests.
I look forward to these annual budget meetings because of the opportunity to make the case for the Library as a strategic campus investment, and because it gives us a good opportunity for a richer discussion about our contributions to the institution. Of course the fact that we do such great work contributes to a positive discussion, and in this regard, you can all take pride in your outstanding work and your role at the University of Illinois.
The Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Dean of Libraries and University Librarian