Belt Tightening, Penny Pinching, and Bovine Sacrifices

By , September 18, 2009 12:29 pm

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by Kristine Lloyd

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Charles Dickens

It’s budget time, and well, you have no money, or less money, or you’re just winging it, hoping that no one will notice you’re a penny over! By now, most of you have read this year’s AmLaw law library survey article, “No More Sacred Cows.” The big news: it’s not that bad. It’s tough to make a case for economic devastation, with numbers like these: 46% of respondents reported a decrease in their annual budgets, but 43% actually reported an increase in their budgets. The average reported library budget was down by only about 1.5%.

 Perhaps the greatest hardship we’ve all faced are the “workforce redundancies” (and the  depressing fact that this word has become a part of the workplace lexicon). Whether you’ve experienced job cuts (let’s call them what they really are) in your library, or within the larger organization, you’ve felt the effects. Did any of us really anticipate the dissolution of Heller Ehrman until it was unfolding right before our eyes? This was a devastating local loss, both because we sadly watched our colleagues lose their jobs, and because we worried whether such a seeming improbability would ever happen to us.

If we still have our jobs, then we’re most certainly working harder with fewer resources. The positive side of budgetary scrutiny is the opportunity to pare underutilized services. Yes, we’ve been doing this diligently for years, but don’t we all fantasize about the day when rogue requests from high billers and elite professors can be evaluated in a more systematic way, as opposed to the “get it no matter what it costs” ultimatums we often receive.

Much of the article’s attention was devoted to discussing usage metrics and tracking software like OneLog and LookUp Precision. Perhaps you’ve seized the chance to eliminate some of your lesser used electronic services, or you’ve tossed a few print subscriptions. By the way, the best metrics for print usage, besides the checkout card of course, are the comments. Three years after tossing our Federal Reporters, an attorney came down to our library looking for them. An essential resource? I think not.

Whether you are cutting resources or devising strategies to more effectively evaluate the usage of your existing resources, I hope you’ll take a moment to share your thoughts on the article. How has your budget been affected this year? Are you cutting print or electronic resources? Are you considering choosing between Lexis and Westlaw? Are you reviewing tracking software like OneLog or LookUp Precision? Please post your comments. If you prefer to post anonymously, send me your comments, and I will submit a follow-up synopsis.

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