Scholarly Resources: From Jeffrey MacKie-Mason

University Librarian Jeff MacKie-Mason

University Librarian
Jeffrey MacKie-Mason

We welcome your comments:

What are scholarly resources?

Scholarly resources are materials that are needed by UC Berkeley faculty and students including but not limited to books, journals, archives, audio and visual recordings, data files, databases, and other collections in either print or digital format.


The University Library, like all units across campus, faces a sizable cut in campus funds for fiscal year 2017-18. To implement this year's permanent reduction of $2.4 million, we have identified savings in three areas: salary savings (through retirement, open positions, or positions moved to one-time strategic gift funds), operational savings, and a $1 million reduction in expenditures to purchase or  license scholarly resources.

This year will be the largest and most challenging for Berkeley, and the Library, as we work to eliminate the deficit based on a four-year plan stipulated by the Office of the President. The cut to our scholarly resources budget will likely be the most visible, and perhaps most upsetting, across campus. The reductions are painful to the Library and the scholars we serve.

Providing access to scholarly resources is one of the Library’s core services. We are a public good that benefits the entire Berkeley community — connecting researchers with materials, regardless of discipline, department, or school. A reduction this drastic affects us all.

Some may ask “why reduce spending on scholarly resources?” Unfortunately, when faced with a reduction this big, there aren’t “good” places to cut. The Library, as documented by the recent Faculty Commission, has been suffering very large reductions over the past 15 years. For example, we've already reduced staff FTE by 27% since 2004, and are making additional personnel reductions this year. By embarking on a thoughtful, transparent, and inclusive process to reevaluate our scholarly resources spending, we aim to minimize the impact on researchers as best we can. 

There is another important reason why we regularly review our journal licenses, and cancel some of them. For many years, market power in the scholarly publishing industry has been increasing. As a consequence, the price of scholarly resources has been increasing faster than general inflation: in recent years, journal and monograph prices at a rate of 3-5% per year. In addition, journal publishers are proliferating the number of journals published, many of inferior quality. The combined effect is a persistent and rapid increase in the cost of scholarly resources. We cannot spend an ever increasing share of campus funds on journals and books unless we are willing to spend less in other areas (such as faculty compensation.) Harvard University described this as an "untenable situation" and "fiscally unsustainable" in 2012. Berkeley is in no better position. Thus, we continuously review, and necessarily reduce our licensing of journals and acquisition of books.

We were permitted to use reserve funds to cover the reduction in collection expenditures for FY17-18. We are using this year to plan and implement a more permanent strategy. Associate University Librarian for Scholarly Resources Jo Anne Newyear-Ramirez is leading this effort in collaboration with the Library's Collection Development Leadership Group.

As always, our mission is to serve, so we are now sharing preliminary plans with faculty, students, Library staff, and other campus stakeholders, genuinely seeking input. For more information, see Process and Questions. To review lists of proposed cancelations and to send comments, see Proposed Savings. Immediate feedback can be sent to

Jeffrey MacKie-Mason
University Librarian
Chief Digital Scholarship Officer
Professor, School of Information and Professor of Economics