The Conservative Government needs to find more than Pounds million for university libraries if it is to offset the huge drop in spending levels since Margaret Thatcher first took office, according to the Publishers Association.
Figures to be published next month show that university spending on library books and periodicals has fallen dramatically. Allowing for inflation, universities and ex-polytechnics should have spent Pounds 101.63 million in 1993/94 but they spent just Pounds 74.29 million. Even the biggest spenders with major research reputations - London and Cambridge - have seen their library budgets plummet. Only Oxford has substantially increased its budget for books and periodicals from Pounds 2.96 million to Pounds 3.41 million, a creditable 15.2 per cent.
The biggest cuts have been on books. Old universities spent just Pounds 22 million instead of the Pounds 40 million needed to maintain spending in real terms. The 20 ex-polytechnics for which comparative figures were available spent Pounds 8.7 million instead of Pounds 16.7 million. Some universities are spending as little as Pounds 20 per student, not even the cost of one scholarly monograph.