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University: Balancing the books – library finds money for acquisitions

Megan Wyatt, The Advertiser, September 16, 2014


Charles Triche III, Ph. D., UL Dean of University Libraries, speaks about future plans for Edith Garland Dupre Library in Lafayette, La., Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. Paul Kieu, The Advertiser(Photo: Paul Kieu, The Advertiser)

The Edith Garland Dupré Library at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette managed to protect journal and database subscriptions during massive state budget cuts over the past six years. But the library had a hard time with minimal, sometimes nonexistent, book budgets.

This year’s UL operating budget has allocated $160,000 to acquire library books, which the dean of libraries says will allow the research library to “play catchup a bit.”

“In the past we’ve had no budget to buy books. I’ve had emergency funds to purchase ones that were really necessary,” said Charles Triche III. “But I haven’t had a strong book budget until this year.”

In addition to the $160,000, the library also has $7,500 available to spend on books from interest earned on money in the UL Foundation’s endowed library accounts. The money varies from year to year based on stock market performance from the year before, and this is the first year in many that there has been any money available from those accounts, Triche said.

This is the largest book budget the library has seen since the 2007-08 academic year before state budget cuts to higher education began, and it will help UL graduate students and faculty members keep up-to-date with the latest research, theories and ideas.

“There are disciplines for which the book is very, very important: English, history,” Triche said. “These disciplines are the ones that were hurting the most when we weren’t wholesale buying books. And those were the disciplines who were speaking the loudest.”

Sheryl Curry, head of information technology and web services for the UL library, is the bibliographer responsible for ordering books for the university’s English Department.

With tight book budgets the past few years, it’s been difficult for faculty members and their students who require specific books for their research efforts.

“It’s been very, very frustrating for Ph.D. students who need the information from these books for their research,” Curry said. “Sometimes we’ve been able to help them with our e-book collections. It’s a hit or miss with language and literature.”

Christine DeVine, a professor of English and the department’s graduate program coordinator, says that on multiple occasions in recent years, doctoral students have gone to conferences to present their research, only to learn that their work is a little behind the times.

“This budget is really, really important to us,” DeVine said. “And we’re very happy we’re going to get some great books. What we need to do is buy the new books every year as they come out.”

There are about 115 English graduate students enrolled this semester, with about 82 sections of English being taught by graduate teaching assistants in the program.

“It’s a big program,” DeVine said. “And one of the few Ph.D. programs in liberal arts.”

The tight library book budgets have been hardest on graduate students, but they have also affected faculty members who devote their research to different concentrations and literary periods.

Many faculty members have purchased books themselves, but that became difficult because faculty members hadn’t receivedonly just received across-the-board raises for the first time in six years.

DeVine will work with the faculty and graduate students in the department to create a book wish list, which she will then give to Curry.

According to Triche, the library book budget is divided among colleges and departments, with the most money being dedicated to programs that offer doctoral degrees and programs that are new to the university.

“We’ve been lobbying for our book budget every year,” Triche said. “Librarians have become lobbyists.”

How much Dupré Library has spent on books in recent years

2013-14: $5,689.04

2012-13: $0

2011-12: $125.64

2010-11: $12,278.20

2009-10: $0

2008-09: $20,482.27

2007-08: $183,962.41

Source: Dupré Library Annual Reports