Mugar funds follow technology trends

The decor at Mugar Memorial Library may have a distinctive 1970s feel, but 21st century prices are forcing the library to increase its funding to meet the rising costs of online research journals, library officials said.

Library funding has been increasing over the past few years, and will increase by $1 million in the next budget due to “rapidly rising costs of research and information materials” which are a nationwide problem, Mugar Director Robert Hudson said.

“The library’s vision going forward is to provide the most efficient and appropriate service to the university community, whether through printed or electronic resources, whether in person or at a distance,” Hudson said. “The real point is that libraries remain at the convergence of information, users and whatever technology delivery system is in place.”

Mugar reference and instructional services head Thomas Casserly said even in an age when online research journals are becoming more of a staple for college students’ research, libraries will remain an integral part of academia, though the materials they house may not be in the same forms as today.

“Academic libraries are going to continue to exist,” Casserly said. “Personally, I think they’re the heart of the university . . . The university has to provide those recourses for students to look at scholarly heritage.

“A lot of this is going to be available online,” he said. “There are big chances coming that are continuing to come.”

Even in this new age, libraries are still adding to their book collections, Casserly said. Mugar adds 40,000 to 50,000 printed materials every year, which does not differ from numbers from a decade ago, he said.

In 2006, the library spent $880,149 on books and $5,443,573 on serials, according to the Association of Research Libraries website. The total materials expenditures added up to more than $8.7 million.

“Constant increases in expenditures for resources constrain the ability of research libraries to purchase books,” Casserly said. “Budgets have not increased as fast as the costs for scholarly journals and electronic resources, which each year can absorb all of any library budget increase.”

“No library can purchase everything they would like or that students and faculty would like the library to purchase,” Casserly said.

Although circulation at college libraries has seen a decline, circulation at Mugar has not declined in a “worrisome way,” Hudson said.

In 2006, the year with the most recently available data, total circulation at Mugar library was 373,737, according to the ARL website, which reports statistics on borrowing, library services and various other library characteristics for its 112 member libraries.

Rather than worrying about the death of book-lending, libraries expect a new age of Internet subscription services and online books, making library resources accessible from anywhere, Casserly said.

Hudson said book circulation is not the best way to measure how many people are using the library and how often they are using it. He said website hits are fast becoming a more efficient gauge for library use.

Website hits should be the new gauge of a library’s users, Casserly said. Mugar has more than 35,000 electronic journals and 271 online databases, and the library website is one of the most heavily-used university websites, he said.

Israel Linares, a School of Management junior, said he never uses the library for research, but he does use the online databases

“I only go to the library when I want to study,” he said. “If I want to do research, I’ll use the online databases. I don’t look at the books.”

Mugar is also a member of the Boston Library Consortium, a group of 19 academic and research libraries that share their resources, the consortium’s website explains. The group’s virtual catalog allows library users to request a book and have it sent to their home library from another member library, Hudson said, through a system that effectively increases each library’s book catalog.

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