For British university libraries, recent years have been a period of sharp and often painful contraction. Cuts in government funding for the universities began with the 1981/82 academic year and have continued since then in a generally unpredictable way. Since 1986/87 funding has been much more selective, with some institutions having their grants cut in cash terms and others having theirs increased in real terms. For the universities, whose recurrent expenditure is mostly on staffing, the main effect has been losses of many academic posts, usually through early retirement. As a consequence, courses have been dropped, departments closed or merged, and subject coverage reduced. The general mood has been one of confusion and demoralization in the face of this sudden and unpredictable change for the worse.