College and University Libraries
Acquisitions project

Acquisition Policy Project ILS 560-70 Pamela R. Dennis November 9, 2002


It is vital for all academic libraries to have some type of formula for calculating the librarys budget.  Expenses including books, periodicals, electronic resources, bindery expenses, postage, phone calls, travel, and copy charges must be paid.  Some library budgets also include salaries for student assistants and salaried employees, though that is not as common.  Monies for paying these expenses generally come from three sources operating funds, endowments, and gifts.  Operating funds are generally assigned by the universitys business officer.  Endowments and gifts may be passed to the library through the Development Office or may be raised by the library itself.  The actual formula for the library is generally voted on by a Library Committee made up of university faculty members.  Several university libraries have posted their formulas on the Internet, so I will attempt through this paper to describe how formulas are developed, what elements are included, and how these formulas are updated.  I will also describe the formula used by the library at Lambuth University in Jackson, Tennessee, and show how other factors would skew the percentage allocations.

            The Ohio University Libraries developed their acquisitions policy in the late 1970s.  The data are updated every three years, and the policy is reviewed periodically by the University Library Committee and by the Subject Bibliographers.  Their policy allows for a supply and demand idea, with monies being split equally over the two.  Supply includes the cost of all materials in a subject area.  Demand includes usage and potential usage (both circulated and in-house) and is calculated according to materials (20%), interlibrary loan borrowing (5%), enrollment (weighted by level of course) (20%), and number of faculty (5%).  These materials are measured using the Library of Congress Classification System.  Through use of an electronic system, the library can determine how many items are used each year in each classification and how many new materials are purchased.  Included in the cost factor are books, journals, and non-book resources such as videos, CDs, CD-ROMs, etc.  In this particular case, the university supports materials for doctoral, masters, and bachelors students, and these areas are weighted when determining the cost of materials75%, 55%, and 35% respectively.[1]

            The University of West Florida Libraries uses a library allocation formula based on six variables degree programs and specializations for each department (weighted by degree), number of faculty in the department (FTE), credit hours taught by the department (weighted by level), number of majors in the department (weighted by level), cost of books (based on vendor information), and cost of serials (based on vendor information).  The library began using this formula in 1998 based on internal and external criteria of cost of books and serials (each being 50%).[2] 

            The University of Western Australias library formula is based on staff and student numbers (weighted by course type and use of books vs. serials) and average cost of book (35%) and serials (65%).  Five percent of the budget is allocated to document delivery.  The faculty members are given budget allocations for books, serials, and document delivery.  Amounts are then split between faculty and students within the department.  The formula is reviewed every three years.[3]

            Lambuth University is a four-year undergraduate school with approximately 800 full-time students and slightly over 50 faculty members.  Disciplines are broken down into six schools of study.  There are seven full-time library employees, three faculty and four staff.  Their positions are as follows:  Director, Reference/Collection Development, Technical Services/System Administrator, Acquisitions/Archives, Serials/Interlibrary Loan, Government Documents, and Circulation.  There are also approximately 25 student assistants who work three to eight hours per week.  All personnel salaries (approximately $123,000) come from the university budget and are not included in the librarys budget.

            The library houses approximately 60,000 cataloged volumes with an additional 1300 government documents, 1000 audio-visual materials, and an unknown amount of archival materials that are not cataloged.  The library acquires approximately 1000 new volumes per year and provides 83 public services hours per week.  There are also an unknown number of serials in printed, electronic, and microform formats.

            The librarys budget is allocated by the Business Office in increments agreed upon by the Library Director.  The budget when I became Library Director in July 2001 was as follows:






Book Purchases-Regular
























Repairs & Maintenance




Service Contracts




Periodicals & Magazines








Electronic Periodicals




Government Documents












            Since that time, the budget has remained frozen due to


the national economic status; however, the funds have been


reallocated by the library staff to better demonstrate the librarys


actual expenditures.  All book-related and audio-visual


expenses are now grouped together, including book purchases,


videos, continuations, and book bindery expenses, for a total


of $32,141.00 or 32% of the total budget.

            Three years ago, the Library Committee, made up of representatives from each school, voted to adopt the Wellesley Formula for book allocations.  That formula is as follows:

Total Faculty + Total Different Courses + (Total Hours x 2) divided by 4 or A+B+2C/4.

            I used the same formula this year and reallocated funds using the current class schedule and figures from the Registrars Office.  The hardest part of the formula is making sure that like courses are counted only once even though they might have been offered every semester, including the summer.  Student teaching and other observation courses were not included.  In addition to allocations for standard courses, monies were allocated this year for the first time to Interdisciplinary Studies, a discipline that includes the required Freshman Seminar, Junior Seminar (19th Century Studies), and Senior Seminar (20th Century Studies and thesis).  Also, 25% was taken off the top and designated for general and reference books, selected by the library staff under the leadership of the Reference Librarian.  

           If the allocations had been figured by student major, the figures would have been much different.  The School of Arts and Communications would have received 13% of the budget rather than 21%; the School of Business and Economics would have received 20% rather than 8%; the School of Education would have received 23% rather than 11%; the School of Social S ciences would have received 13% rather than 12%; the School of Humanities would have received 5% rather than 12%; and the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences would have received 12% rather than 10%.  Business and Heath and Human Performance (P.E.) have the highest percentage of majors, yet these two areas include only 5% of the faculty each and 5% each of different courses.  Also, only about 2% of the librarys book collection is found in the Library of Congress classification for P.E., and few of those books are used.  It would seem impractical to allocate 13% of the librarys book budget to that area.

            More research will be done to see if the Wellesley Formula is providing the most equitable distribution of funds to the various disciplines.  Also, an allocation policy will be worked out for the series collection.  At the present time, a constant amount of money is being maintained for the disciplines with no regard for a particular formula for equity.

            This project has been important in helping to determine what types of formulas are used by various libraries to allocate funds.  While no two policies are the same, each policy discovered does have a review process in place and is updated periodically to provide necessary materials for its disciplines.

[1] Allocating Funding for Library Acquisitions at Ohio University. Available at


[2] Library Allocation Formula, University of West Florida Libraries.  Available at


[3]Information Resources Budget Formula, University of Western Australia.  Available at