Shrinking Academic Library Budgets

Once again libraries, as a percentage of overall university expenditures, have lost ground. Phil Davis, an independent researcher and former science librarian, recently wrote that “based on reports from 40 research libraries, the percentage of university funds spent on libraries has shrunk by over one-half in the past three decades, from a high of 3.7% in 1984 to just 1.8% in 2011.”

Looking at the updated graphic from the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), we can see this downward trend for ourselves.


Phil Davis’ goes beyond the numbers and tries to offer explanation and even place a little blame. “I believe that ARL’s graph of library expenditure decline tells a mixed story of success and failure,” he writes, “success on the part of the library to live within its means, and failure for librarians to get a larger slice of a growing pie. As for the growing pie, it may indicate that universities have failed miserably to keep their own spending under control.”

Make sure to read the entire article on The Scholarly Kitchen for the complete picture.

Do you agree with Mr. Davis’ assesment? Are academic libraries doing everything they can to get a piece of the pie? Should universities be working harder to control their own spending?