SFA students and faculty have recently raised concerns about proposed budget cuts for Ralph W. Steen Library for the current fiscal year. Students expressed their concern regarding the library’s change in hours of operation, which was due to budget cuts according to Library Director Jonathan Helmke. A proposed change that was still being decided upon until recently was a reduction in online journal subscriptions that students and faculty can access through the library.
Amanda Rudolph, professor of education studies and graduate coordinator for secondary education, said she found out through a faculty graduate meeting and emails from Helmke about the resources being cut, and professors were asked by Helmke to provide rationale for keeping them. Rudolph said she was upset about the burden that would be put on students if the resources were taken away.
“I think that we should be prioritizing academics and helping our students the best way that we can,” Rudolph said. “[And] then, it’s also a faculty issue because we have to publish to be tenured. We need those resources in order to publish, present, do research and even just to stay current in our field so that we [are] teaching our students the most current things.”
During the faculty senate meeting on Sept. 8, Lorenzo Smith, provost and executive vice president of academic affairs, said there had not been a decision to delete any subscriptions, but if there was even one subscription that students were not using and that could be cut to save money, then that would be done.
Helmke said the budget for this year is still being determined and all he can offer is an estimate of what the budget will be based on discussions with Smith.
“The library expenditure for FY21, that’s last school year, approximately totaled $3.16 million,” Helmke said. “Based on my last communication with the provost, I’m expecting the budget for FY22 to be about $2.55 million.” Helmke said the biggest reduction was in the student worker budget that affects hours of operation.
He also said that cutting journal subscriptions in no longer up for debate, and the current subscriptions will be kept.
“In terms of research resources that are part of our budget – we always consider our budget when we plan for that. Based on my latest communication with the provost, I expect to see no changes to those subscriptions,” he said.
According to Helmke, the only expected changes are reductions in the student worker budget and the internal office budget, which are office supply and travel expenditures. He said that no other cut besides the student worker budget cut will be made that affects students. He and Smith meet once a month, or as needed, to talk about library concerns.
“[The provost] consults me with any decision making in terms of the budget, and my role is to provide professional advice and opinion.” Helmke said he takes advice given to him by students and his staff to the provost so it can be taken into consideration.
“We’re always in communication with the student body, [and] the student body can communicate with me anytime if they have concerns,” Helmke said. He said he welcomes hearing present or future concerns from students so that he can help bring attention to concerns.