Trends in the finances of UK higher education libraries: 1999-2009

Added by Catherine Gray on 09 September 2010

The last decade has been a period of unprecedented change for university libraries. The rapid growth in numbers of students and staff across the higher education sector has been accompanied by the move to a substantially-digital environment, with some fundamental changes in how libraries and their users operate.

As they have responded to new developments over the past decade, and changed their operations, most university libraries have seen continued growth in their budgets in real terms.  The next few years are going to be much more difficult in financial terms. Libraries therefore face a period in which they will have to cope with continued rapid, perhaps transformational, change, accompanied by reductions in their budgets.

In that context, this briefing paper looks at how the financial position of libraries in the higher education sector has changed over the period between 1999 and 2009 (the latest year for which statistics are available). It is based on an analysis of data collected by SCONUL, and also draws some comparisons with the US. For some twenty years SCONUL has collected annual figures for a wide range of activities and costs amongst its members in UK higher education. SCONUL data are available in annual volumes from academic year 1993-94 onwards.

Overall, this briefing presents a picture in which library expenditure has been rising in real terms, but not as fast as expenditure – and activity – in the HE sector as a whole. So libraries face some real challenges as they prepare for a more difficult financial climate, with real and substantial cuts in expenditure.

The report and briefing sheet are available to download below. If you would like hard copies of the report please email catherine.gray@rin.ac.uk


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