You can expect a column on the budget each year about this time, depending in part on when the Library’s budget hearing takes place. Our annual hearing took place Friday, February 20th. Budget hearings for each school or college (and the Library) take place with members of the CBOC, a committee that includes faculty and representatives of the provost’s office. The budget process this year was colored by events in the state, even prior to Governor Rauner’s budget address earlier that week.
It surely goes without saying that the health of the state economy will be significant for the University, even though the University relies less each year on state funds. As President Easter noted, if passed, the proposed 31.5% reduction in funding to the University would have a significant impact. Time will tell whether Rauner’s budget will pass as proposed; I’d like to think the budget proposal (which is just that–a proposal) is part of a dance that takes place between the legislature and the governor, and that we’ll see a less dramatic reduction when the budget is finally approved. Regardless, the campus will surely need to adapt to a smaller allocation. Nevertheless, the campus has committed considerable resources, including careful thought, to weathering circumstances like these; we may be able to gradually ease into new ones.
In a few weeks, I will share the Library’s annual budget proposal with you. As in previous years, we begin that document with a discussion of our accomplishments and the contributions we make to the campus. I hope that you will feel the pride I felt as you read it. In many ways familiar to the campus, we excelled. The number of people coming to our libraries (nearly 5 million) increased, as did their use of online resources (e.g., 5.2 million downloads). We were engaged with our users in person and virtually (over 100,000 reference transactions), and even measures such as circulation that decline were strong (we loaned nearly half a million volumes). At the same time, we are engaging in vital and new ways. As federal agencies release their data sharing and management requirements, the very successful Research Data Service is more important than ever. Our R&D around discovery is groundbreaking and demonstrates engagement with the distinctive nature of our local users. The roughly 140,000 volumes we digitized with Google returned over $8 million in value to the campus, as we substituted Google’s free service for high cost outsourced or local digitization. In the budget proposal, we highlight our hiring (which has been extremely successful); while our extraordinary collections are critically important, it is our people who make the Library a success. I am regularly reminded of the deep appreciation the faculty and students here at Illinois have for our remarkable services and collections. That appreciation was reflected by the faculty in the budget hearing. They were thoughtfully engaged in many issues that we presented and interested in the forces that shape our work.
In the budget proposal, you’ll read our response to proposed reductions. I am grateful that the campus continues to make efforts to protect the Library. Schools and colleges were asked to model 5% and 10% reductions to their central funding. In order to help the campus understand the gravity of such reductions, we provided data about the impact of such reductions on collections and staffing. Based on a mutual understanding with the provost and in recognition of the critically central role we play, we modeled a 0% reduction to the collection budget and a 2.5% reduction to operations. Even these reductions present a challenge, but barring extraordinary circumstances, this kind of protection will be valuable in ensuring the critical strength of the Library for the campus.
These are just the earliest steps in a longer journey. The governor and legislature will negotiate a budget over the coming months, and this will provide more certainty for the University. Our own budget allocation will become clear later this summer. At our next Library forum, Greg Knott and I will discuss the current budget, and when we gather in the fall, we’ll have an opportunity to discuss the FY16 budget allocated to the Library. I look forward to talking to all of you more about the budget soon.
The Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Dean of Libraries and University Librarian