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Whither the Canadian dollar … and the library budget

As we dove into budget preparations for the next fiscal year, we were confronted with an unforeseen challenge: the dollar totally tanked. That had a lot of us doing this:


The library gets a share of the university budget for base operations. In 2012/2013 (most recent CAUBO data available), this was 3% of the total university budget. Approximately 35% of that operations budget (roughly $4 million) is dedicated to growing our library collection. Since 2009/2010, like all other departments, we have also had to factor in the necessary budget reductions in our annual budget plans, averaging 2%-3% base reductions each year.

Regularly, we struggle with making sure ends meet as we see annual inflationary increases from the publishers to whom we are beholden to provide access to the top tier journals in academia. In 2015, that increase was projected to be 6.1%. In years past, particularly in 2011 and  2012, when the dollar was hovering toward par, we enjoyed increased purchasing power. Despite our piece of the pie shrinking, we managed to keep pace without too much effect on the community (i.e. cancellation of resources, as has been the case elsewhere in the province) through strategic purchasing and use of one-time-only money.

And then … the economy threw us for a loop. Despite our best efforts at planning for a worst case scenario, we didn’t quite expect this. In recent months the Canadian dollar tumbled to a low point of .73 (January 30, 2015). The effect on the library’s collection budget is substantial. The majority (approximately 70-75%) of our electronic resources and our monographs are invoiced in US dollars. The price tag for an already expensive journal just got way more expensive.

We still don’t know what the long term effect of this will be on the library’s bottom line. We were lucky to have paid many of our invoices earlier in this fiscal year when the exchange rate was more favorable. But if we now have $500,000 USD worth of of outstanding invoices at this point in the fiscal calendar, we’ll end up paying over $620,000 CAD!

For now, we are watching and waiting …

Further reading on bundled packages from the major publishers:

The Big Deal: Not Price But a Cost

Library Spend on Journal Big Deals (UK)