Letter from the President

By Doug Achterman, CCL President

Budget uncertainty seems to be the rule rather than the exception in California’s community colleges. Even when funding is stable from the state—certainly not the case right now-- changes at individual colleges often leave librarians scrambling for resources. And even when funding is stable at both state and local levels, the disparity in funding across our system raises serious questions about our commitment to equity.

Funding for our libraries is a case in point. In 2017-2018, funding for electronic databases and other electronic resources purchased through the library consortium (excluding Turnitin) ranged from a high of $218,500 to a low of just $6,800. While larger colleges need to spend more to meet the needs of a larger student population, the disparity in funding per FTES (full-time equivalent students) was equally staggering: the greatest spending per FTES was $50.85, while the lowest was $5.69, roughly nine times lower than the greatest.   The mean spending per FTES was $18.74. The mean for the top ten colleges in database spending was $38.75, while the mean for the ten lowest was $7.91, almost five times lower.

Total book expenditures from 2016-2017 show an even greater disparity: after removing four outliers—two from the top and two from the bottom—the highest expenditure for books was $287,000, while the lowest was $2,900 (rounded to nearest hundred), a factor of nearly one hundred.

There is no doubt that the statewide purchase of a core set of databases has established a baseline of resources that might not otherwise be available to all community college students. The library services platform (LSP) project will provide a similar baseline in terms of a high-quality tool for accessing resources. Currently, nearly half of all California community college libraries lack a discovery layer connected to their ILS. While discovery layers are evolving and are not a panacea for all challenges to search, they do represent an important tool that provides significant opportunities for more effective locating and accessing of quality resources.  The fact that nearly all California community colleges will be using the same discovery layer as part of the same LSP will contribute to significant sharing among librarians about best practices for configuration and information literacy instruction related to the LSP. As with the shared set of databases, this will create a baseline in provision of current information access tools that will make our students more successful.  If only we all had enough library faculty to implement the robust information literacy instructional programs all our students deserve!

The Council of Chief Librarians played a primary role in the initiatives to bring statewide databases and the LSP to fruition. We are moving toward our equity goals. And we have a long way to go.