Front window of the Health Sciences Library
Signs of the times at the UNC Health Sciences Library

Walk into the Health Sciences Library at UNC Chapel Hill and you can’t help but miss this display in the window of the main entrance:

Effects of budget cuts on the Health Services Library at UNC.
Window display in the Health Services Library at UNC Chapel Hill

In case you can’t read it in the photo, the text says:

The HSL budget was CUT by 12.7%
The HSL will CANCEL 34 journals.
35 journals will be RENEWED. 4 decisions will be DELAYED.
We will also cut:
Operating Costs, etc.

The journal cancellation program has been underway for 3 years now and library administrators have solicited user feedback in deciding which journals to cut, in part by comparing usage to cost.

According Jake Wiltshire, development and communications head for the Health Sciences Library, no one’s lost a job yet.  Instead, HSL administrators cut vacant positions. Some services (IT, admin) were picked up by a newly ‘convergent’ library system. He says hours have been cut some, but what’s more significant is there are fewer librarians to assist students during those hours the library is open. 

The HSL also got some money from the University provost to keep open, longer.  “Without it,” Wiltshire says “we would have been closed weekends.

We regularly get requests for extended hours, especially from medical students,” he says. Wiltshire points out many of the health sciences schools built their facilities without study areas, relying on the fact the HSL would be there to provide those medical students with places to study – along with nursing, public health and dental students, among others.

But Wiltshire says one of his biggest concerns is access to journals for health care professionals at UNC Hospitals. They use the HSL to do real time research while caring for patients. And those are the people who might be likely to look for an article in a more obscure journal – one that’s been cut because of the budget.

“They need that up-to-date information at the point of care. We’re less equipped to support them,” he says.

Correction: when this post was originally written, the HSL was identified as the Health Services Library, not by its correct name as the Health Sciences Library.  D’oh!

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Rose Hoban is the founder and editor of NC Health News, as well as being the state government reporter. Hoban has been a registered nurse since 1992, but transitioned to journalism after earning degrees...