What is going on?

On 30 May 2013 the ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) wrote a letter to the House of Representatives making known its intention to implement drastic cutbacks in the field of Education and Science. Part of this is the plan to cut TU Delft’s “subsidy” in regard to the national role of its library.

TU Delft is strongly appealing to the ministry to abandon this plan. TU Delft Library, including its national role in the field of Engineering Science, was funded from regular government funding (the money the university receives directly from the ministry of OCW as government contribution) before 1984. In 1984 TU Delft collaborated on the (political) wish to transfer part of the government funding to a separate subsidy for the purpose of activities in the field of library documentation. This subsidy has since been separately included in the OCW budget with specific mention of the “national role” of TU Delft Library. On balance, then, there was and is no question of an advantage for TU Delft. This was the case up until today; just like in 1984 the contribution for the national role was 2.3% from government funding in 2012.

Cutting this subsidy in fact not only constitutes a reduction of TU Delft’s government funding, money that is pre-eminently meant to provide high-quality education, it also affects the policy priority of Technology, which the ministry precisely means to exclude from this round of cutbacks.

As a result of this measure TU Delft will be hit disproportionally hard compared to other universities in terms of the reduction in the direct funding it will receive. We are not aware of any substantive considerations that justify this.

Role of the university libraries

TU Delft Library devotes itself to goals that extend further than the primary education and research goals of TU Delft. On the one hand we ensure that our academics and students are offered all the information they need for their research and their course of study. Think not only of (online) journals, books and databases, but also of teaching these target groups how to deal with this information: what can I (re)use, how do I find the right information, how do I share my research data and how do I protect my rights? On the other hand we help publicise the research and education at the university, so that it is made available to the rest of the world and can contribute to new research and innovation. Making research and education visible happens in different ways; it can be done through own repositories, traditional journals, social media or special publication environments. And simply making it visible is not enough. We ensure that published material is visible, can be cited, and is archived sustainably.

TU Delft Library and its national role

The library at TU Delft has been fulfilling the role of information provider on a national level since the end of the nineteenth century. Companies and knowledge institutions never had any trouble finding the library of the then Polytechnical School and later the Technical Institute of Higher Education for technical-scientific documentation. However, in 2009 a barrier was erected by the publishers when they limited the provision from electronic sources (to commercial parties) with strict rules. The amount of scientific articles supplied to parties outside the university by TU Delft still remains the highest of all universities.

As mentioned earlier, in 2013 the university library is active in a much broader field within and outside the university than it was in the past. We are advocates of open access – that is to say we strive to make the output of the university as broadly accessible as possible.

The national role of TU Delft Library does not offer the university a financial advantage. There is no question of an activity that can be clearly earmarked or identified as being part of this “national role”. The Library has, however, always felt responsible for its role in the technical sciences. Everything the Library does for the university itself is examined to see how it can also be brought outside the university. TU Delft Library is actively looking for possibilities to contribute to the valorisation of knowledge.

TU Delft has made regular reports to the ministry of OCW regarding the national role fulfilled by the TU Delft Library. During these talks recognition was always expressed of the close interrelation of the internal and external tasks of the library. The Library’s efforts to promote open access in the provision of digital information were very much appreciated.

Collaboration and innovation within the Netherlands

Within the collaboration between university libraries and the National Library of the Netherlands (UKB) there is a joint undertaking of innovation projects, administrative processes and the purchase of licenses.

Finally

The national role of TU Delft Library cannot be separated from the internal function the library fulfils for the university. TU Delft Library offers an essential contribution to disseminating the output of TU Delft for the benefit of new innovations, holds a pioneering position in several areas within the Dutch knowledge society, and it is an expert in the field of research data within the sciences.

Wilma van Wezenbeek, Director of TU Delft Library
26 June 2013