As difficult as it is to write this message, it was even more difficult to take the actions that are described herein.
The University has faced significant financial challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Several messages from President Assanis have highlighted the financial impact as well as some of the mitigating actions we have taken as a community. Naturally, the Library, Museums and Press was not immune from the financial impact.
In August 2020, the Library, Museums and Press (Library) was asked to absorb a reduction in our budget of $6,425,050, equal to 25% of the proposed FY21 budget. To provide context for a budget reduction strategy, it may be helpful to understand more fully the Library‘s budget. The budget is divided into three categories: human resources; collections; and supplies and general expenses. This third category—only a small portion of our overall budget—includes our student wages, funding for professional development and travel, and everything that’s not included in the two other categories. For FY20, the Library’s actual expenditure was $25,660,199. Across the three categories, this was apportioned as follows:
Supplies and General Expenses
To help achieve our budget reduction target, we employed several mitigation measures, including:
Implemented a hiring freeze as a part of the University-wide effort (leaving six (6) positions unfilled)
Implemented no salary increases for all staff, in line with the University’s plan for all staff
Participated in the voluntary salary reduction schedule for the Vice Provost for Libraries and Museums
Participated in the voluntary retirement program (decreasing staff by an additional nine (9) positions)
Implemented a mandatory 5% reduction in salary for ALL staff
Reduced student employment spending by 72.5%
Terminated all miscellaneous wage employees
Eliminated all travel expenses
Reduced, by more than 50%, all professional development funding
Consulted with some academic departments on how to decrease collections spending (see message to the campus of September 18, 2020). These conversations did not include the cancellation of Elsevier journals.
Despite these efforts, we fell short of our budget reduction target. The measures above yielded a total savings of $3,545,067 (or 55.2% of our target).
In late October, we were advised that we needed to get much closer to our target reduction. As with the University administration, we want to “protect our people” and preserve, as much as possible, our (now already reduced) staffing levels. Since we had already significantly reduced the staffing in the Library and cut most of the supplies and general expenses budget, we had no other option but to look for additional savings from our collections budget. As a result, the Library has recently cancelled its bundled journal subscription with Elsevier Publishing, which will immediately save more than $2 million.
We had already begun discussions with the Faculty Senate Library Committee about how we would negotiate with Elsevier in 2021 when our contract would have been up for renewal. As noted in my letter of November 6, many institutions have not reached favorable negotiating terms with Elsevier and have either canceled their subscriptions or significantly changed the nature of their relationship with Elsevier. In addition to concerns about cost, the academic community has been demanding answers from Elsevier about their open access policies. We will continue to engage the campus community about these topics.
It is unfortunate that we had to make a decision without additional consultation with the broader UD research and scholarly community. However, we had a deadline by which to submit our budget reduction target plan. We are very aware of the potential impact this decision has on our community and their ability to easily access these journals. We will do all we can to ensure seamless access through our resource sharing partners via interlibrary loan.
While the cancellation of Elsevier journals will not achieve 100% of our budget reduction target, it moves us significantly closer. With this action, it is our hope that we will not have to further reduce collections spending or take additional adverse human resources actions.
As always, I appreciate your understanding as we all work through these rather challenging times together. We remain firmly committed to supporting your research and teaching at the University of Delaware. Please reach out to me or to your liaison librarian if you have any additional questions.
Trevor A. Dawes
Vice Provost for Libraries and Museums and May Morris University Librarian
 It is important to note that between 2016 and 2020, the Library, Museums and Press also reduced its staffing levels, through restructuring, by an additional ten (10) positions, now leaving the organization with a total staff reduction of 25 positions.