UT Libraries pursuing paths to make scholarly material more available after receiving $2.7 million in recurring funds

Lauren Grobe

The UT Libraries are pursuing paths to make scholarly material more available after provost Maurie McInnis committed $2.7 million in recurring funds to the libraries’ budget in November. 

The University Budget Council added the recurring funds after the Task Force on the Future of the UT Libraries completed its report and determined the libraries’ budget needed an increase to match the rate of inflation.

Alexia Thompson-Young, assistant director of scholarly resources, said the money has not been designated for a specific purpose, but it could be used to maintain subscription plans with journals and aggregators. 

“It keeps us from having to cancel a bunch of subscriptions,” Thompson-Young said. “It keeps us from having to decrease the amount of books we buy.”

Thompson-Young said the library is also planning on making parts their collection open access, which will allow members of the public to access online materials for free.

Classics associate professor Jennifer Ebbeler said the libraries were previously not able to buy everything faculty needed because journal subscription rates increase every year. She said she usually buys her own materials because her field’s scholarly material is relatively more affordable. 

“There’s a lot (of materials) that are between $20 and $50,” Ebbeler said. “A lot of people do buy books themselves, but it depends on the field … any image heavy field, the books are extremely expensive.”

According to the libraries’ website, University students and faculty can file a purchase request or make an interlibrary loan to obtain materials the libraries do not have access to. Ebbeler said these processes are often lengthy. 

“You can request that they buy a book, but that takes months to do,” Ebbeler said. “I bought a book on Amazon … at 3 in the morning, and it was at my door the next day.”

Thompson-Young said the libraries’ contracts with publishers, which they buy or rent from academic material from, change over time. She said the amount of materials the library owns and the amount it rents is in flux.

“That is always changing, and so I can’t tell you that we purchased 50%, and we rent 50% because there’s no way to (tell).” Thompson-Young said. “It changes day to day.”

Thompson-Young said the libraries are usually able to obtain any material outside the libraries’ collection on request. In the Task Force on the Future of the UT Libraries’ report, the task force received anonymous complaints about decreasing access to material.

“I cannot emphasize how much the depletion of the library’s collection of books has the potential to affect my ability to function as an award-winning scholar,” one complaint said. “More and more of the books I expect to find in the library’s collection are now materials I have to order through interlibrary loan.”

Thompson-Young said not many people understand how much the libraries spend on obtaining new content, as the libraries expands their collections every year.

“We want to buy the very best content for our users because we want them to be able to do the very best research,” Thompson-Young said. “And that means paying for more expensive content."