Message from the Dean of the University Library
As a direct result of the unsustainable rising costs of subscriptions set by publishers, in addition to the fluctuating value of the Canadian dollar and the monopolization of publishing companies, the University Library is facing growing constraints to its collections budget. As such, we are forced to evaluate our e-resource subscriptions in an effort to maintain a balanced budget.
Over the next couple of months, librarians will undergo a review of our online journal packages and determine those not to renew. We will then engage faculty and graduate students to help inform which individual journal titles from those packages to consider for renewal.
For any journals that we do not renew, we will retain access to content we currently have access to; only content published after 2019 will be inaccessible. The majority of titles that will not be renewed will still be available through other means, such as interlibrary loan. Open access versions of articles can often be located and accessed using browser extensions like Unpaywall. We will continue to collaborate across Canada to negotiate favourable license terms for our largest vendor packages, and work locally to negotiate more favourable non-consortial licenses. Additionally, we will review electronic resources and serial subscriptions as part of our ongoing collection management.
It is important to note that this financial challenge is not the result of insufficient funding or poor budgeting, nor is it a unique to our library. The unfortunate reality is that every academic library faces similar circumstances; many libraries throughout North America have already taken action in response to unsustainable subscription costs and outdated subscription models. One recent example is the University of California’s cancellation of Elsevier.
While this is not an ideal scenario, I assure you that we will work to minimize the impact of the cancellation through several key principles, including usage analysis, and maintaining core strategic resources for teaching, learning and research.
At a meeting with deans from across academic units on campus in March, I shared the current state of the collections budget and the challenges posed by exorbitant publishers’ costs. It was a productive and encouraging discussion. We are already scheduled to speak at a number of faculty council meetings to help raise awareness of the current situation and build an understanding of the library’s next steps. We also look forward to the opportunity for further dialogue with a variety of research, teaching and student groups on campus.
I encourage you to read the FAQs and related articles below to gain a greater understanding of the scope of this issue beyond our library and university.
Dean, University Library
The decision to not renew some online journal packages is in response to inflated publishers’ prices and the value of the Canadian dollar. The majority of publishers’ prices are in USD and foreign exchange is wildly variable. Many academic and research-intensive libraries worldwide have already addressed this same issue by reducing their own collections. In an effort to maintain our current collections, we delayed our decision to not renew subscriptions as long as we reasonably could.
It depends. We are projecting a shortfall of $750,000 - $1,200,000, based on these assumptions:
- 0 to -2% reduction in the budget allocation from university
- 3-5% annual inflation from publishers on the cost of electronic resources
- Stable Canadian dollar at current level ($0.75)
- Minimal financial reserves due to prior years’ budget reductions, limiting our current ability to cushion the impact of ongoing cost increases
Over the next few months, we will be undergoing a review of our online journal packages and determining those not to renew. We will then consult with faculty and graduate students to help determine individual journal titles to re-subscribe to.
We already do. The University Library is a member of the Canadian Research Knowledge Network (CRKN), a consortium of 74 Canadian universities, dedicated to expanding digital content for academic research and teaching in Canada. CRKN’s roots date back to 1999, when it was first established as the Canadian National Site Licensing Project. Membership in CRKN has been very cost-effective for over two decades to make essential research available to the USask community.
Over the next few months, we will be undergoing a review of our online journal packages and determining those not to renew. We will then engage faculty and graduate students to help inform which individual journal titles to consider for renewal.
Our principles include:
- Maintaining appropriate balance among disciplines, and core strategic resources for teaching, learning and research to minimize the impact of cancellations.
- Ensuring continued access to content we have already purchased.
- Focusing reductions on ongoing subscription/licensing costs.
- Using data and consultation to help inform decisions.
No. We have made many efforts to combat the financial challenges affecting our collections budget. Previously, we have evaluated our collections for duplications of print and electronic journals. Additionally, we have built inflation and foreign exchange factors into our budget projections.
We have helped mitigate the situation over the years through several actions – not renewing select databases; reviewing individual journal titles and not renewing as appropriate. These actions have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The current system of commercial journal publishing is unsustainable and inequitable. Publishers’ profit margins are substantially based on content (articles) and labour (peer review) that our researchers provide to them free of charge, which universities then have to buy back in the form of journal subscriptions at highly inflated prices. The publishing landscape is dominated by conglomerates that monopolize academic publishing.
Furthermore, much of this research has been publicly-funded and it is unethical to have it behind paywalls for a privileged few in academia – especially when the impact of the research we do at USask can be far-reaching and transformative. USask researchers can continue to support open access efforts by submitting open access versions of articles to disciplinary or institutional repositories (including HARVEST) or by choosing to publish in an open access journal.
We are eager to meet with faculty and student groups across campus to discuss the next steps in our evaluation of the collections budget.
- Mar. 28, 2019
- College of Kinesiology Faculty Council
- Mar. 29, 2019
- Edwards School of Business Faculty Council
- Apr. 2, 2019
- College of Nursing Faculty Council
- Apr. 9, 2019
- Graduate Students' Association Council
- Apr. 18, 2019
- Research, Scholarly and Artistic Work Committee
- Apr. 25, 2019
- College of Agriculture and Bioresources Executive Committee
- May 1, 2019
- St. Thomas More Faculty Council
- May 3, 2019
- School of Rehabilitation Science
- May 8, 2019
- College of Dentistry Faculty Council
- May 9, 2019
- Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy Faculty Council
- May 10, 2019
- College of Education Faculty Council
- May 10, 2019
- School of Public Health Faculty Meeting
- May 14, 2019
- Western College of Veterinary Medicine Faculty Council
- May 14, 2019
- College of Pharmacy and Nutrition Faculty Council
- May 14, 2019
- College of Arts and Science Faculty Council
- May 29, 2019
- College of Medicine Faculty Council
- June 19, 2019
- College of Engineering Faculty Council
Challenges to the traditional scholarly publishing model are not unique to USask. Learn more about what other institutions are saying and doing about sustainable publishing.
- U15 Statement on Sustainable Publishing
- It’s time to stand up to the academic publishing industry
- SPARC Big Deal Cancellation Tracking
- CARL Members Release Journal Subscription Cost Data
- Inside Higher Ed - The Beginning of the End for the 'Big Deal'?
- CARL and CRKN Support the University of California in Taking a Bold Stand for Openly Available Research