Paying for Library Resources: FAQ Update - April 11, 2016

Dear Members of the UNB Libraries Community:

Since our FAQ release of December 9, 2015, on the critical situation we are facing with respect to library acquisitions, new developments have given rise to new questions which we attempt to answer here. This update does not replace but rather expands upon the earlier FAQ.

Some universities in Canada are reviewing their reliance on bundled journals (Big Deals) and, in order to realize savings, are implementing or at least considering a return to title-by-title subscriptions. Are UNB Libraries considering a similar strategy?

No. The bundled approach to providing access to scholarly journals has been extremely cost-effective for UNB.

There has been much media coverage lately of Memorial University's non-renewal of "Big Deal" journal packages in favour of a return to title-by-title selection. While it is reasonable to assume that such a step will inevitably lead to cost savings (and such indeed seems to be the case for MUN), it is important to understand that the economics differ from institution to institution. Our own analysis shows that UNB would be severely disadvantaged were we to take a similar path, drastically reducing access to content for very limited, if any, cost savings. The explanation lies in the most common pricing model for the "Big Deals" which is based on journal titles originally subscribed at the time of entering into the deal, plus a small "top up" for access to the remaining content. UNB did very well under this pricing model because we had so few subscriptions going into these agreements. The example below using Elsevier Science Direct (Fig.1) will illustrate the point, while Fig. 2 shows that usage is spread throughout the large number of titles provided in the package.

Fig. 1

Elsevier# of TitlesUSD Cost 2015Cost per Title
“Big Deal” priced on UNB’s 129 original subscriptions2,189$335,947$153
Cost of original titles today129$357,866$2,774
Elsevier titles in UNB’s Top 500 Journal Titles List 2014161$639,874$3,974

Fig. 2

Elsevier Usage 2014# of TitlesArticles DownloadedCost per Article
Elsevier titles in Top 50016180,367 
All Elsevier titles2,189168,607$1.99

Our objective in pursuing cost reductions is to minimize the negative impact on teaching and research. Again our analysis shows that cancelling journal packages would have a devastating impact on UNB's ability to pursue a research agenda.

Does the new money ($981,000) provided to UNB Libraries for acquisitions mean that book-purchasing can be restored?

No. We are grateful for the additional funding provided by UNB Administration which will allow us, with the savings from the suspension of book purchasing factored in, to cover our costs to the end of this fiscal year (2015-16).

Will book purchasing be restored for the 2016-17 fiscal year beginning May 1?

We are currently projecting a shortfall in the library acquisitions budget 2016-17 of well over one million dollars. New money will be required if we are to restore regular book purchasing.

When will we know the results of the faculty/graduate student survey on library resources?

Thank you to all those who took the time to respond to our survey which closed on April 1. The response was strong and highly representative of the community we serve. Close to 200 faculty (from both campuses and from every faculty) provided valuable feedback, as did more than 100 graduate students. We are currently compiling the data and aim to have a preliminary report of findings completed within a month. The results will be shared on this website.