Purchases of books and periodicals are bearing the brunt of funding cuts in nearly nine out of ten surveyed libraries.
Initial returns (46 out of 140) from the Library Association survey of higher education libraries expenditure for 1996/97 show that academic book and periodical purchasing power will suffer most in 39 out of 46 libraries that have announced reduced or standstill budgets.
In some libraries the cuts could be up to 17 per cent though the median level is expected to be 5 per cent. Six out of the 46 libraries to respond are expecting any growth on this year's budget.
Twenty-one, 47 per cent, of those reducing or freezing their budgets said that book buying would be hit. The number of periodicals bought is also set to fall as 19 out of 46 institutions plan to cut this budget.
In addition, 18 institutions cutting or freezing their budgets plan to cut staff numbers while five plan to reduce electronic services and 5 per cent to reduce opening hours.
The association has called on the Government to reverse the funding cut imposed by last November's Budget, stressing that libraries are already under pressure due to increased student numbers.
Ross Shimmon, the association's chief executive, said: "Short-term cuts in library funding cause long-term damage to learning, teaching and research. This survey is yet more evidence of how the funding crisis is harming the country's competitiveness."
Librarians, who included comments with their survey returns, said that libraries were more crucial than ever since student-centred learning was increasingly encouraged.
Meanwhile, the library and information statistics unit, at Loughborough University, has produced statistics showing that university libraries nearly doubled their expenditure on systems allowing online computer access to source material.
The mean annual expenditure per university in 1992 was Pounds 30,600 compared to Pounds 60,400 in 1994. The comprehensive LISU statistics show that much of this growth was due to CD-Rom acquisition (there was 125 per cent increase in CD-Rom expenditure 1992-94).