Economic turmoil continues to plague libraries around the world, particularly in Europe and North America, where the threat of a double-dip recession hangs over some of the world’s major economies. The latest Library Budget Predictions survey published by PCG reveals that many institutes are matching macroeconomic calls for prudence with a cautious approach where their own spending is concerned. There are some small glimmers of hope for growth, however, as overall budgets are expected to increase, albeit marginally. This relative change suggests one of two things: either that institutes believe the worse of the economic crisis has passed, or have not yet factored in recent uncertainty in the European economy. Either way, librarians stay conscious that the effects of inflation are eroding their purchasing power to lower levels so will need to remain wary and stay focussed to ensure that growth can continue.
The impact of the crisis across different regions and on various components of the library budget is interesting. Budgets for materials (the provision of all information content) are predicted to increase, albeit by a tiny 0.3%, this will mostly affect the purchase of serials, which is set to rise by a slightly higher amount to 0.5%. To accommodate this, books budgets are likely to be squeezed and are forecast to drop.
And while these findings are broadly true across the globe, library budgets have been more severely impacted in certain regions more than others, and within certain areas of budget spend. Both Europe and North America predict overall decreases across all library budget areas, while Europeans predict the largest decrease in the overall budget, at 1.3%, as austerity measures kick in and impact the Eurozone countries. North America’s predictions are an improvement on last year’s, but it is clear the economic position of the US is having an adverse effect. Many states in the US are running at a deficit and a substantial proportion of public institutes’ income is derived from state budgets. Private institutes, while less dependent on state funding, have greater exposure to the markets, and here poorer than expected economic growth has impacted their investments and endowments.
While the report highlights that libraries are feeling only marginal improvements in their budgets, librarians were also asked to forecast further into future to predict how much recovery we might see in by 2015. When asked to predict by how much they thought the materials budget would change by 2015, overall, librarians estimate that their materials budget would increase by 1.8% from 2012 levels.
It seems that amongst librarians at least there is still hope for a slow but gradual recovery.
Download the full report here.