RLI 282 2 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC 2013 ARL Library Budgets after the Great Recession, 2011–13 Charles B. Lowry, Professor Emeritus, University of Maryland College Park S ince 2008, ARL has collected annually member data on budget allocations at the beginning of the fiscal year. At first these efforts were motivated by the desire to understand what was happening at the beginning of the “great recession” in 2008. As time passed, it became clear that there was a broad interest, not only among members, but also in higher education and the publishing community about these initial budgets as predictors of the lagging indicator of expenditures collected annually for the ARL Statistics.1 In simplest terms, members were asked, “How much money did you get, not how much did you spend?” The survey instrument was refined progressively for three years and in fiscal year 2011–12 was stabilized. The current version, referred to by the shorthand the “Ten-Minute Survey,” has been simplified and pared down to three essential questions that capture the gestalt of a library’s budget.2 While lacking the detailed precision of a lengthier survey, the resulting data are sufficient to reveal the initial fiscal state of budgets, and to a significant degree to project near-term trends that do not show up in the ARL Statistics for several years. The key question remains—when will the budgets of ARL members recover to pre-2008 levels? The National Association of State Budget Officers gives mixed reviews to recovery in state budgets for 2013, noting that in 36 states K–12 education received increased spending, whereas higher education continued to experience cuts. The general picture is a bit sobering. “Even with revenue growth, state budgets are still facing pressure, with 24 states enacting lower spending levels in fiscal 2013 than in fiscal 2008. In nominal terms aggregate general fund expenditure levels are also still below the pre-recession peak of $687.3 billion. Aggregate spending levels would need to be at $735 billion, or 7.9 percent higher to remain equivalent with real 2008 spending levels.” As this article shows, budgets of ARL member libraries generally do not meet this demand.3 The first three years of the “Ten-Minute Survey” were reported in two publications.4 This article captures two fiscal years FY2011–2012 (hereafter FY11–12) and FY2012–2013 (hereafter FY12–13). The article discusses the data from both years separately, but also provides a deeper view by looking at the 88 libraries that reported in both years to examine how they fared from one year to the next. As the recession abates and a recovery (however slow) emerges, this analysis attempts to answer the key question, “Do the data from the last two fiscal years indicate a trend that ARL member library budgets are on the mend?” The “Ten-Minute Survey” questions elicit responses about the two basic components of ARL member budgets: The acquisitions or materials budget that is almost exclusively aimed at acquiring, in its many forms, scholarly information supporting the educational and research mission of universities. On average, in 2010–11 40.6% of ARL budgets were expended on acquisitions.
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