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Open Letter to Licensed Content Providers

There is a related letter to the UC Community (password protected).

June 15, 2020

The University of California is facing serious budget cuts as a result of the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of a plan to close California’s projected $54.3 billion budget deficit, the current budget proposal from the Governor’s office calls for a 12% cut in UC’s funding, which is equivalent to a total of $470 million in reductions. In addition to our state funding, other sources of university revenue are also significantly affected: the University of California Health System has seen revenues decline during the shelter-in-place period, while experiencing staggering increases to its expenses as it prepared for the COVID-19 surge in March and April. The uncertainty regarding enrollments for the coming academic year represents another budget challenge for UC, as the university braces for anticipated declines in tuition revenues.

These budget pressures will have a significant impact on the budget of UC Libraries in fiscal year 2021 and beyond. Consequently, we have begun renegotiating our upcoming licenses to reduce costs in multi-year license renewals and in routine annual renewals with vendors. Our goal is to preserve licenses to the extent possible, and maintain access to vendor products in order to meet the information needs of the University of California’s students, faculty, and researchers. Some campuses, however, may need to withdraw from particular licenses, and entire cancellations may even be necessary. We will attempt to avoid this scenario as best we can, and focus instead on achieving savings in each of our renewals. We want to keep an open dialog with you, our vendor partners, to find creative solutions to these problems. We welcome all innovative proposals for managing through these difficult times, including transformative open access agreements.

Numerous other cost containment measures are already in place across the university, including salary reductions for senior managers, hiring curtailments for other staff, travel restrictions, and other mandated reductions. More information about the UC budget situation is available on the University’s Web site at universityofcalifornia.edu/news.

At the same time that we face these budget challenges, the need for online resources is greater than ever in the current online education/distance learning environment. Our libraries, which offer a vast collection of electronic resources, are well-positioned to meet this moment thanks to the investments we have made and our commitment to disseminate research and scholarship as widely as possible.

UC’s commitment to dissemination and access, and our strategy for negotiating journal agreements remain unchanged by, and are indeed reinforced by, the current situation. As publicly announced in the UC libraries’ 2018 Call to Action, we are continually guided by “a combined strategy that places the need to reduce the University’s expenditures for academic journal subscriptions in the service of the larger goal of transforming journal publishing to open access.” Thus the current fiscal crisis magnifies–but does not alter–our dual strategy: we remain committed to our widely recognized core aims of advancing open access, while reducing expenditures. As we look to the conversations that lie ahead this year, we will seek to collaborate with journal publishers on publishing-based open access models that meet our guidelines for transformative agreements.

We recognize that information providers are experiencing tremendous pressure too as the economy contracts and business models and projections need to be rethought. Our goal is to work with the vendor community to address these challenges together, realizing that expenditure levels need to be recalibrated to meet the moment in which we find ourselves.

Despite the daunting challenges of drastic budget reductions and precipitous contractions in economies worldwide, we see opportunity in this challenging period to work together to provide access to online resources to support teaching and research, and to catalyze important, mission-driven work to advance open access business models —a need cast into high relief by the current crisis. We reach out to you with the aim to make these big leaps, together.

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