Library survey will track impact of budget cuts

A corgi, a donkey, a polar bear — you name it and the UAA/APU Consortium Library has put it on their LibQUAL survey advertisements. LibQUAL is a survey offered by the Association of Research Libraries that assess constituent perceptions of library services.

Signs raising awareness for the LibQUAL survey, which is offered by the Association of Research Libraries, can be seen around UAA/APU Consortium Library.
Signs raising awareness for the LibQUAL survey, which is offered by the Association of Research Libraries, can be seen around UAA/APU Consortium Library. Photo credit: Young Kim

The Consortium Library surveys stakeholders at the university every three years by asking about users’ minimum, perceived and desired levels of service. This year is the first time the library has surveyed users after being cut over $1.8 million over the last four years.

“Now that we have even less money, we will be paying even more attention to what the results tell us,” Stephen Rollins, dean of the Consortium Library, said.

Survey data from the 2014 LibQUAL survey show that UAA students generally rate their satisfaction with library services high at seven to eight out of 10 for categories of “I am satisfied with the way I am treated at the library,” “I am satisfied with library support for my learning, research, and/or teaching needs,” “How would you rate the overall quality of the service provided by the library?”

Positive views of library

The library is generally reviewed positively by UAA students when it comes the spaces offered. LibQUAL data from 2014 showed that on a scale from one to 10, the library was rated high as a quiet study space (7.55 mean), as a comfortable and inviting location (7.63) and as a gateway for study, learning and research (7.56).

“It’s a gigantic facility, there are a lot of places to study, it’s really, really quiet,” Genevieve Mina, political science major, said. “There’s a bunch of computers, I can eat there, and the study rooms are also the things that are really crucial.”

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Students in the 2014 survey also rate the category of “the library enables me to be more efficient in my academic pursuits or work” at 7.37, but with a dip to 6.57 when it concerned the topic of, “The library helps me stay abreast of developments in my field(s) of interest.”

“I think it’s an excellent library,” Brian Schroyer, geomatics major, said. “It’s got all the resources I need, all the books, and when I do need to do projects for the library, it’s definitely a good spot to use.”

Rollins said that the number of people using the library has increased over the last three years. An average week at the library in the fall semester has 12,000 people walking through the building.

Budget reductions have impacted library offerings

Cuts to the library budget have impacted staff positions and online offerings from the library. In fiscal year 2015, the library budget was cut by over $400,000 followed by steeper cuts in FY16 and FY17 of $602,423 and $741,320 respectively, according to the Consortium Library website.

This year the library faced a smaller reduction of $80,471, but Rollins said offerings are still being cut due to rising costs of materials.

“We are falling behind by not having inflationary increases, and we’re falling behind because we’ve been cut a total of $1.8 million,” Rollins said.

Those cuts have manifested themselves in reductions of staff positions, hiring freezes, reductions to library hours and fewer subscriptions to online journals.

Nick Tabaczka, political science major, has attended the university for the past four years. While he describes the library as “a 10 out of 10,” he has seen the impact of budget cuts on after hours.

“I really hate when they close it early,” Tabaczka said. “Last spring they were shutting the thing down at nine or 10 in the evening, it’s horrible… It closes way too early, but I understand. Budget cuts are budget cuts.”

Rollins said the library originally extended hours because of student interest, but staffing concerns have made it hard to extend hours.

“We had to reduce hours for the library because we didn’t have as many people working in that area as well, although that’s been something that I’ve been working on,” Rollins said.

Since FY15, subscriptions to over 500 journals were eliminated. Some of the online resources cut were popular, including access to the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary and the historical New York Times.

“We have a list now that we are starting to build up of things to restore once we get more money,” Rollins said of the Oxford English Dictionary and historical New York Times.

All of these cuts impact the library and university’s academic missions.

“As our collection resources shrink, our knowledge center becomes smaller, and that jeopardizes our ability to support the research efforts,” Rollins said.

Few alternative revenue streams

Currently, the majority (92.5 percent) of the library budget is funded from general fund allocations. The other 7.5 percent of the budget comes from alternative revenue streams.

“The library also brings in it’s own external funding, so like the medical library downstairs has contracts with the health care providers,” Rollins said. “So they’ll bring in over $100,000 a year. We have a partnership with ARLIS [Alaska Resources Library & Information Services]… so they pay us to be here in the building with us.”

Since only 7.5 percent of the revenue is independent of general fund allocations, the library is very vulnerable to state cuts. Rollins said he is working on increasing alternative revenue streams.

Another source of funding for the library comes through grants and donations.

“With grants we could get a million dollars in any given year,” Rollins said.

The nature of grants usually prevents the money from going to general operational costs, and they are typically targeted to a specific project.

Rollins is glad the university limited the impact of budget cuts on the library this year.