Collections Budget Funding

Message from the Dean of the University of Houston Libraries

Our collections budget funds scholarly purchases and subscriptions to support the University’s teaching and research mission.

Traditional collections funding models are unsustainable for two primary reasons:

  1. Continued demand for traditional scholarship formats (books, journals, databases) grows alongside the demand for new formats (datasets, streaming media), putting a strain on library budgets
  2. Each year, publishers charge an average of 5-7% more for the same materials as the year before, requiring either annual library budget increases or difficult decisions

The COVID-19 crisis has had dramatic financial impacts around the world. In the U.S., state funding has declined, and universities expect further cuts, which will impact library budgets.

These problems are not unique to UH. Like many libraries worldwide, our librarians work to provide access to essential scholarship while responsibly balancing our budget. Our goal is to raise awareness of the unsustainable costs of scholarly publications as well as changes to publishing, such as open access.

We need to adopt new long-term approaches that work for our campus community. We need to engage our stakeholders throughout this year. We will communicate with campus throughout this process. Please contact us directly with questions and concerns.

About the Texas Library Coalition for United Action
Frequently asked questions about collections
Suggested readings about collections

Global landscape

Libraries and universities worldwide are working to maintain current resources while also filling new requests.

Common problems in scholarly communications and access include:

  1. There are 5-7% annual price increases for journal and database subscriptions. Budget difficulties from rising costs and rising needs have led libraries to reconsider subscription packages (“big deals”) from large commercial publishers
  2. Publishers are increasing the number of journals being produced. For example, since 2005, Nature journals (published by Springer/Nature) have more than doubled from 20 to over 40
  3. There are newer publication formats that did not exist 5 or 10 years ago. Data resources, including datasets, data resources, and tools for analysis, are integrated into many academic programs. Multiple disciplines have needs for streaming media resources for films, documentaries, and clinical skills videos
  4. Researchers, funders, and librarians are working collaboratively to make more materials open access. The open access movement has already led to radical changes in scholarly publishing. This work has been accelerated by several factors, including the immediate need for research about COVID-19. Learn more about open access

UH strategies

Libraries worldwide are changing strategies for scholarly publication access.

At UH, we too are making changes to managing our collections budget, including:

  1. Determining renewal priorities for existing subscriptions by considering use data, university priorities, and alternative access options
  2. Investing in term-limited, not perpetual, subscriptions when appropriate. For example, we may subscribe to a journal for a specified period to support a research project
  3. Purchasing books primarily upon request, rather than buying them in anticipation of need
  4. Cost-sharing with requesting departments for new resources when possible, increasing our ability to acquire new resources
  5. Purchasing through consortial partnerships to negotiate bulk-pricing subscription discounts. We are part of two consortia: