May 2016

FY17 Budget Hearing Remarks

Note: The University’s budget hearing process changed this year and involved a more intensive analysis and discussion of the budget narratives submitted. Each hearing began with remarks from the dean of the school or college. My remarks follow.

I want to start by discussing the process that brought the Library to the conclusions you have in our budget narrative. We in the Library undertook a thoughtful and broadly engaged process to integrate our strategies with the way that we invest the entirety of our funds. We undertook our strategic planning process in concert with our budget planning process, and ensured that both of those conversations were broadly inclusive.

Our strategic planning process was an iterative set of conversations, both within the Library and with campus stakeholders, beginning in early 2015 and concluding with a plan in late 2015 and retreat in January 2016. The resulting framework was grounded in a reaffirmed mission statement and emphasized our goals of

  1. strengthening the campus infrastructure to support scholarship and innovation;
  2. ensuring an integrated and coherent user experience of library services focused on success in information retrieval and use;
  3. maximizing the use and impact of library services, collections and spaces; and
  4. capitalizing on our national and international leadership in strengthening the overall research library ecosystem, which is highly interdependent.

We initiated our budget reduction process in the fall of 2015, with each of the associate deans (as well as me) leading conversations in our respective areas of direct responsibility, giving attention to strengthening the Library’s capability with regard to those goals, protecting areas of strategic investment and deprecating areas that were not aligned (or were weakly aligned) with our mission.

I hope this careful and yet aggressive and strategic approach is evident in the budget document. I realize we’ll talk about budget reduction scenarios later in our discussion today, but I would call your attention to strategies like the consolidation of service points, finding efficiencies in cataloging, and the use of the NCSA and IT powerplant resources to scale our digital capabilities as examples of outcomes from those mission-aligned processes that save money and yet make us a better library.

Let me draw your attention to the first section of the document to highlight ways that we deploy resources to ensure a successful University of Illinois:

  1. Data suggests that library instruction and the integration of resources such as tutoring centers in libraries leads to more successful learning experiences for our students. We are working to improve our efforts in these areas.
  2. Library spaces remain important, but the needs of our students and faculty evolve. Even with limited resources, we continue to transform our spaces to better meet the needs of the campus.
  3. Our support for traditional collections is outstanding. We play a leading role in the state and nationally (e.g., in the CIC). At the same time, our efforts to build the next generation of support for the cultural record grow more robust with each passing year. Examples including the RDS and our engagement with new forms of scholarly communication.
  4. Finally, you’ll see several mentions of “at-scale” opportunities: many library functions can be carried out more effectively and less expensively by creating shared mechanisms to accomplish those goals. We have been a strong proponent of shared digital curation and are likely to be a leading force in the next stage of the CIC’s efforts for shared print storage.

In closing, I should state the obvious regarding our funding and the impact of reductions. Libraries are necessarily dependent on central funding, and we have few opportunities to blunt the impact of reductions. It was Paula Kaufman’s good work that led to the Library/IT fee, some portion of which we receive, and this now represents a significant percentage of the Library’s budget. We have been more than moderately successful in getting grants and in fundraising (always beating out Michigan handily!), and will continue to focus energies on diversifying our funding. That said, we are not able to increase revenue with admissions, and the slow decline that the Library has seen over the past several years has diminished our relative stature nationally. Nonetheless, we are a great library and continue to lead. I would like to make a plea to protect the Library’s operations budget, insofar as that’s possible, and to invest in the collection budget. I did note that we will take the planned reductions, whether or not we receive a smaller reduction, and I can assure you we will invest any freed-up funds in ways that enhance our strategic value to the campus. We have long been an engine that contributes to the University’s success in teaching and research, and our continued stewardship will ensure that this is true into the future.

John Wilkin
The Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Dean of Libraries and University Librarian