The Budget Process and Library Impact on Student Outcomes

With the last of the Welcome Days events now completed and the start of the fall semester fully complete, it is time to turn our attention to another annual tradition: the preparation of our annual budget request.

Each year, we are asked to put together a budget request for the following fiscal year, so this October we are in the process of requesting budgets for 2018–2019. The budget process has changed quite a bit in the last few years. Historically, budgets were distributed through the ‘all funds’ budget process in which the ‘administration’ made decisions about how best to allocate resources. The process was not transparent, and in the last few years of the all funds process, the Libraries did not fare well.

The shift to the RCM model may have been turbulent, but the result is a much more transparent budget process and a way for us to request needed funds. In fact, anyone can view a lot of detail related to the sources of allocations to cost centers (including the Libraries) at In addition to being more transparent, RCM has moved decision-making from ‘administration’ to the chancellors and the chancellors are now in the process of engaging the deans.  This means that more of the budget decisions are being made by people who use our resources and services.

I have now participated in two budget requests through the RCM process with some success (see reports on FY2017 and FY2018 requests). It is clear that the chancellors face difficult decisions in allocating funds because of competing factors, including other cost centers such as Student Affairs and Facilities and internal needs such as new faculty and startup packages.

During this process, the Libraries are asked to provide a description of our services. We routinely include figures that demonstrate our impact on students or the use of our resources (such as the estimated savings of the OAT Program, the use of resources, or the cost per use for journal articles), so we know it is helpful to have strong evidence that Libraries make a difference. However, because of the complexity of the educational environment, it has been difficult to measure the impact that libraries have on student success.

That is what makes this news out of the University of Minnesota so exciting.

The Impact of Academic Library Resources on Undergraduates’ Degree Completion:

A large, rigorous study by the University of Minnesota—“The Impact of Academic Library Resources on Undergraduates’ Degree Completion”—assessed whether first-year students who used the library at least once during their first year were more likely to graduate or continue to be enrolled in four years (indicating progress towards degree completion).

The survey followed the 2011 entering class of 5,368 students, controlling for factors related to differences in students, including first-generation, socioeconomic status, participation in support programs for underrepresented students, on-campus vs. off-campus housing, SAT scores, AP courses taken, and enrolled college.

They analyzed the students’ records to determine if they had used at least one of five major library services—borrowing books (including interlibrary loan and ebooks), using electronic resources, using a computer workstation, enrolling in library instruction, or asking a reference question—in their first academic year

The results indicate that, overall, first-year students who used any of the library services at least once during their first year of enrollment were nearly 40% more likely to be enrolled in four years or 44% more likely to have graduated in four years than peers who did not use any library resources.

Further analysis of the individual services showed that first-year students who used:

  • electronic resources at least once in their first year, were 45% more likely to continue to be enrolled and nearly twice as likely to graduate;
  • books at least once in their first year, were 34% more likely to graduate in four years; or,
  • instruction, either by enrolling for a class or having library instruction embedded in classes, were 40% more likely to continue to be enrolled after four years.

There was no significant relationship with the use of workstations, reinforcing the fact that workstations are simply a tool. There was also no significant relationship with the use of reference services (including chat), perhaps because a very low number of students—only 5%—used this service.

This survey is a tremendous accomplishment and is directly relevant to our work, in part because of the parallels between Rutgers and the University of Minnesota.  Like us, UMN is a large public land-grant institution and member of the Big10. I hope you will take time to read the report and think about how its findings might be useful to what we do and how we do it. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

These findings couldn’t arrive at a better time! Although I have never been asked to prove the value of the Libraries during the budget request process, evidence of library impact on student outcomes will be very useful in our budget request and I hope to have good news for the Libraries later this year when we receive our budget allocation.

Krisellen Maloney