“Harvard Library says it can no longer afford the vast cost of academic journal subscriptions, and has advised staff at the university to support open access publishing instead….”
Abstract: The academic libraries of higher education institutions (HEIs) pay significant amounts of money each year for access to academic journals. The amounts paid are often not transparent especially when it comes to knowing how much is paid to specific publishers. Therefore data on journal subscription expenditure were obtained for UK HEIs using a series of Freedom of Information requests. Data were obtained for 153 HEIs’ expenditure with ten publishers over a five-year period. The majority of institutions have provided figures but some are still outstanding. The data will be of interest to those who wish to understand the economics of scholarly communication and see the scale of payments flowing within the system. Further research could replicate the data collection in other jurisdictions.
“David Lewis recently proposed (see https://scholarworks.iupui.edu/handle/1805/14063 ) that libraries devote 2.5% of their total budget to support the common infrastructure needed to create the open scholarly commons….
In the early stages of exploring this idea, we want to come to some agreement about what would count as such an investment, and then build a registry that would allow libraries to record their investments in this area, track their investments over time, and compare their investments with like institutions. The registry would also serve as a guide for those looking for ideas for how to make the best investments for their institution, providing a listing of all ‘approved’ ways to invest in open, and as a place for those seeking investment to be discovered. As a first step towards building such a thing, we are crowdsourcing the creation of the inventory of ways to invest. Below you’ll find, organized by Lewis’ categories, a wide range of investments that many of us already make….”
“In 2014 Timothy Gowers and others used Freedom of Information laws to extract the relevant price information from UK universities. See here for more detailed information. Earlier (2009), less extensive, work in the USA had also been done by Ted Bergstrom and others. Inspired by this, I tried the same thing in New Zealand (for 7 of the 8 universities – representing around 8400 academic/research staff and 130000 students, so far (Lincoln University, very much smaller than the others, was omitted owing to an oversight). Whereas Gowers was able to obtain the requested information within a few weeks, it has taken me 3.5 years. In both countries universities originally refused to release the information. However, in the UK there is an automatic right of review of such decisions, undertaken by an academic. In NZ, no such right exists….”
“SPARC has started a list of big-deal cancellations.
It’s a great idea. If the list doesn’t include any big-deal cancellations at your institution, let SPARC know. See the update buttons at the bottom of the page.
At launch time the list didn’t include Harvard’s 2003 cancellation of the Elsevier big deal, and I just sent SPARC some relevant links. As long as I’m doing that, I thought I’d blog them here as well. After the official announcement by Sidney Verba, I list the pieces in chronological order:
“A Letter from Sidney Verba,” (then Harvard’s University Librarian), Harvard University Library, December 9, 2003.
“Harvard is Pursuing its Own Elsevier Deal,” Library Journal, October 21, 2003.
Jeffrey C. Aguero, “Libraries to Cut Academic Journals,” Harvard Crimson, November 23, 2003.
“Libraries take a stand: Journals present rising costs to libraries – and to scholarship,” Harvard Gazette, February 5, 2004.
“The University Library is currently in negotiations with its largest supplier of academic journals, publishing magnate Reed Elsevier, hoping to secure a less restrictive contract.
Currently, Harvard and Reed Elsevier have a three-year contact, covering almost 800 journals, which is set to expire at the end of this year. According to library officials, the contract is very limiting in regards to changing and canceling subscriptions to certain journals….“They make it difficult to cancel and we get locked into buying. We want to sign a shorter term contract with more flexibility,” said [Sidney] Verba [University Librarian]….”
“In a move that reflects the extent of academic librarians’ concerns with the inflexibility of so-called “big deal” e-journal packages, Harvard University likely will not sign a multi-year contract to renew access to Elsevier’s journals. Harvard University Library Director Sidney Verba said, “We haven’t finished negotiating, but in all likelihood we will not be signing the renewal offer through NERL, in the way in which they have put it forward.” NERL, the Northeast Research Library consortium, includes 21 research libraries, Harvard among them. Verba said the sticking points were the inflexible “bundling” of journals in the previous contract and the inability to cancel journal titles without incurring heavy penalties. In “big deal” packages, libraries are contractually locked in to subscriptions for extended periods, regardless of usage and changing budget situations, in exchange for deep discounts and caps on inflation. “The main point is the ability of libraries to control their own collections,” explained Verba, “to cancel what they want to cancel, to have the option of attrition, especially in times of real financial stress, like now. The Elsevier contract does not really allow that.” Harvard spends six percent of its materials budget on Elsevier–about four times more than on its second highest collection expense….”
“Students and faculty logging onto the HOLLIS catalog after winter break found a decrease in the number of periodicals available from Elsevier, one of the world’s largest publishers of scientific journals. According to Sidney Verba, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and director of the University Library, the decision to eliminate these journals was the result of 15 months of careful consideration. “It was driven not only by current financial realities,” Verba states, “but also – and perhaps more importantly – by the need to reassert control over our collections and to encourage new models for research publication at Harvard.” Similar steps have been taken at other major research institutions, including Cornell, Johns Hopkins, and the Triangle Research Libraries Network….”
“As of January 1, the University is eliminating a number of journals published by Elsevier. Some of these titles were duplicate print subscriptions. Other titles were shown to have been underused over time. Harvard libraries will fulfill requests for articles from these journals through interlibrary loan and third-party document delivery services.
The decision to eliminate these journals was the result of careful consideration over the last 15 months. It was driven not only by current financial realities, but also—and perhaps more importantly—by the need to reassert control over our collections and to encourage new models for research publication at Harvard….”