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Have you done any sustainability planning? While it’s true that a number of granting agencies now include requirements for this kind of planning, what’s really the driving force for many of us is that our institutional homes are now asking for more accountability, and more transparency, as a result of a shrinking bottom line.

For models, one good source is the 2008 Ithaka Report, Sustainability and Revenue Models for Online Academic Resources ( It is specifically aimed, as the title says, at online resources, but the revenue models are broadly envisioned.

One of the best pieces of advice the report gives is that we “need to adopt a more comprehensive definition of ‘sustainability’.” In other words, when it comes to thinking about sustaining our projects and initiatives, we have to consider a mix of solutions. The Ithaka Report divides its suggested models into those that “tax” the direct beneficiary of the service, and those that ask an indirect beneficiary to share in the support for the service.


  • subscription or one-time payment
  • pay-per-use
  • contributor pays


  • in-kind donations, including host institution funds
  • corporate sponsorships
  • advertisement
  • philanthropic funding
  • licensing of content

There are pros and cons for each of these models, and so it’s a good idea to consider the fine points if you are thinking about pursuing one or more of these paths. In my case, I need to look deeply into an approach for a direct beneficiary payment model. I manage a new service that has the usual infrastructure and labor costs, but it also has particular (external) use-related costs.

These are the kinds of things I need to think about now: I didn’t learn about them in library school, and so I’ve been borrowing examples from partner institutions, reading business texts, and asking for lots of help. It’s an interesting position in which to be, and I imagine more and more of us will find ourselves in this place. If the Ithaka report is an indicator, this is one trend that has a real growth curve. What does it look like from your perspective?