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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Jan. 12, 2007

Library ranking dips

by Erin Rosacker

State funding and tuition have not kept up with library costs, and now those deficiencies are showing up in a national ranking of research libraries.

In the 2004-05 index released by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) in July 2006, Iowa State tumbled eight spots from the previous year to rank 88th among the 113 member schools. In the last 10 years, ISU has fallen 15 spots.

Olivia Madison, dean of the library, attributes much of that decline to budget cuts and rising inflationary costs of copyrights and journals. Two of the five factors used to calculate the index (see list) are expenditures and total number of physical volumes on hand. According to Madison, journal costs are rising at least 10 percent yearly, and copyright costs soar 13 percent annually.

Iowa State's cost-saving efforts had consequences in both categories. Money saved by canceling printed journal copies in favor of electronic versions and the loss of printed materials on the shelves were direct factors on the index calculation.

"A major difficulty for the library is that we have no control over inflation increases for journal costs," Madison said. "It's like utilities; we just get the bills."

Continuing budget challenges facing the library include implementation and support of changing technologies, updates of computers and software, and additional staffing costs for multi-media technology or extended library hours.

These are some of the areas that students could choose to apply funds toward if a proposed library fee becomes a reality. However, Madison emphasized that revenues from the student fee would not be used to pay for basic needs -- such as utilities, acquisitions and payroll -- that the university should fund.

Budget model help?

How would the proposed budget model impact the library's finances?

"The model itself is neutral to the library," Madison said.

As proposed in the model, the library would receive funds from revenue-generating campus units. That support would be indirectly affected by the success of the incentive-driven model, Madison said.

ARL Criteria Index

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL), whose members are 113 university research libraries in Canada and the United States, produces an annual ranking of its members using a "criteria index." The formula for this index considers five variables:

  • volumes held
  • volumes added
  • current serials (e.g. journals, periodicals)
  • total operating expenditures
  • staffing (professional and support)


"A major difficulty for the library is that we have no control over inflation increases for journal costs. It's like utilities; we just get the bills."

- Olivia Madison, library dean