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Systemwide Library License Reductions in a Time of Fiscal Challenge (Public Letter)

There is a related letter to the UC Community (password protected).
May 16, 2011 Author: Ivy Anderson, Director of Collections, CDL In May 2009, CDL issued an Open Letter to Licensed Content Providers concerning the serious economic challenges facing the University of California and other statewide institutions of higher education.  Since that time, CDL has worked proactively with the UC campuses to control costs in multi-year license renewals and in routine annual renewals with vendors.  Significant savings and cost avoidances were achieved over the ensuing two years through tenacious and disciplined review and renegotiation of well over 100 systemwide agreements.  In only a few cases was it necessary to cancel a small number of journal titles or forgo new content in order to reduce expenditures. As the 2011 calendar year approached, it became apparent that further expenditure reductions would be difficult to achieve unless the libraries began to scale back the amount of content that we license, due to the excellent cost control that CDL had previously obtained and the likelihood that the industry would begin to seek price increases after two years of pricing concessions and restraint.  This forecast has been borne out in our 2011 negotiations. The information below outlines for the UC community the specific cutbacks that have been made in the UC Libraries’ licensed content portfolio in 2011 in order to calibrate our investments at more sustainable levels and sets forth the strategies and principles that have guided these decisions in response to the University’s serious and ongoing budget challenges.   CDL and the UC Libraries welcome your feedback on these issues. The most recent news on UC's budget can be found here.

Factors Guiding UC Libraries Cancellation Decisions

A principal driver:  the increasing unsustainability of ‘big journal deals.’

Major journal packages, typically called ‘big deals,’ have transformed library purchasing in both positive and negative ways.  Big deals have allowed libraries large and small to purchase and share a diverse collection of journals at a lower unit price than would otherwise be possible.  The unit cost of an individual title within a big deal tends to be low compared to the publisher’s list price or compared to smaller journal packages that do not have similar volume discounts.  Moreover, these deals provide each participating campus with access to a much broader array of journals than campuses can afford to license individually. Typically the big deals are licensed with multi-year, negotiated price caps that provide long-term budget stability.  The contracts also offer libraries, particularly consortia, administrative cost efficiencies by purchasing a single large package as a group. Big deals have slowed the dramatic double-digit journal pricing inflation that was typical in the scholarly publishing industry over the last decade. On the negative side, with the exponential increase in scholarly journal publishing (both in a growing number of titles and number of articles published worldwide), the large fixed expenditures inherent in the big deals have become an unsustainable burden on library budgets.  At UC, more than two thirds of systemwide library expenditures are for journals, most of it tied up in a very small number of large publisher packages. The big deals have usurped collection budgets at the expense of monograph purchasing and journal subscriptions from smaller publishers, including societies and other non-profit entities. When budgets erode, we have no recourse but to scale back these large fixed commitments in order to preserve our ability to support a range of disciplinary needs across the university, including new research programs and curricula.  The Libraries’ objective in such cases is to preserve the positive value and cost control of these arrangements while judiciously pruning content based on sound and objective principles. It is worth pointing out here that many publishers have begun to license e-books in large packages as well.  These packages exhibit many of the same benefits and drawbacks as the journal ‘big deals’—a controlled unit price, broad access, and administrative efficiency compared to individual purchases—but at a similarly large and indivisible fixed cost.  While UC Libraries have purchased a number of such packages in recent years, this method of book purchasing has also placed increasing strains on UC library budgets and is likely to change in future as the libraries experiment with more selective e-book purchasing models.

The use of value metrics to inform library decision-making

Since the 2007 publication of the UC Libraries’ white paper on the application of objective metrics to determine journal value, all of UC’s major e-journal contracts have been thoroughly analyzed and the data have been used in discussions with publishers to restructure or realign cost to value.  CDL has pioneered the development of a weighted value algorithm that combines external measures such as journal impact factor with UC-centric metrics such as usage, UC citation behavior, and average cost per use and per impact.  These data are normalized by broad disciplines across all systemwide journal packages. This analysis allows CDL to determine the overall value of a given publisher package relative to other packages that we license and to compare the performance of individual journals from a given publisher with other journals in that publisher’s portfolio as well as with other journals in the same broad disciplinary area regardless of publisher.  These analyses have become an important tool in assessing value and guiding decision-making. When these data suggest the need to review a given package, individual journal data are then reviewed by subject bibliographers at the campuses, who apply their knowledge of campus programs and priorities in making specific recommendations.

Maintaining a shared approach

Controlling the cost of our licensed resources through shared investment, principled negotiations, and where necessary, targeted reductions is a strategy designed to ensure the vitality of UC’s shared library collections over the long term.  By making careful choices, collaborative licensing of new information resources needed by UC students and faculty can still be judiciously pursued despite our current budget challenges, enabling UC to continue to build a pre-eminent digital collection that provides the best possible value and access to scholarly content at all UC campuses.

Decisions Affecting Specific Resources

Springer:  Cutback of Springer Journals in 2011

In 2011, CDL was confronted with the renewal of one of its largest publisher agreements:  its systemwide journals license with Springer Science +Business Media (Springer). CDL’s analysis of the Springer portfolio revealed an overall cost per use that was higher than the norm for other CDL packages, with many individual titles whose value characteristics warranted review. As the 2011 renewal approached, CDL initiated negotiations with Springer with a goal of reducing the base cost of the Libraries’ systemwide license. Reaching agreement with the publisher on a reduction to the journal package was not easy.  After a lengthy negotiation, in March 2011 CDL and Springer reached agreement on a new two-year license that will allow the Libraries to reduce the cost of our journals contract but will require the cancellation of 376 Springer journals previously licensed at UC.

Deciding Which Journals to Cancel

There are a number of ways to reduce the content of large journal packages. Other libraries have employed a usage-based analysis as the basis of an 'orderly retreat from the big deal'. UC had its own preferred methodology for identifying cancellation candidates, based on CDL’s weighted value algorithm. Ultimately, CDL and Springer agreed to a cancellation approach that met the needs of both organizations, resulting in 376 title cancellations in 2011. Given the University’s current fiscal constraints, the significant budgetary challenges presented by publisher ‘big deals,’  and the existence of journals of varying value to UC in these large publisher portfolios, a collective decision to cancel a significant number of journals in our Springer license was difficult but necessary.

Providing Access to Canceled Content

Access to pre-2011 content for the 376 titles that are being canceled will vary according to the level of perpetual rights that UC holds for particular titles. UC libraries will retain complete backfile access to 146 of these journals (from earliest years through 2010).  For some other journals, access to older content will persist as a result of earlier backfile purchases, but access to later years may not be available. In the remaining cases, UC will lose access to journals entirely when these are not covered by a prior backfile license.  Specific entitlements for each journal will be included in the title list below once this information has been verified. The Libraries will make articles from these journals available as needed through interlibrary loan and document delivery services.  Articles may also be available through Google Scholar, including authors’ archived versions held in institutional or subject repositories, and some articles may be available as open access on the Springer site.  Library users are encouraged to explore all of these avenues as the need arises.

Local Licensing

Campuses have agreed to minimize local licensing of the cancelled titles, since this would reverse the systemwide cost savings that the Libraries have worked so hard to achieve.   If our budget situation improves in the near future, UC will consider restoring the most important Springer journals.

Informa HealthCare:  Cancellation of Informa Journals License in 2011

The University of California Libraries cancelled the Informa Healthcare (IHC) Journals consortial license as of January 1, 2011. Previously licensed content (1997 - 2010) is accessible on the Informa platform. A small number of IHC titles will be licensed by individual campuses in 2011. Access to CRC Press journals on the Informa platform will continue through 2012 per a separate CDL license.

Why was the Informa package selected for cancellation?

CDL has pioneered the application of objective, multi-factored metrics to determine the value of our systemwide journal licenses.  Based on the CDL’s weighted value algorithm, the IHC package was determined to have less value compared to other health sciences titles across the system.  For example, the highest -used IHC title had comparable usage to the lowest-used titles in all other health sciences collections.  In addition, the medical and healthcare subjects in the IHC package are covered in other journal packages with higher value metrics. Given the reality of declining library budgets, the IHC package rose to the top of the list in 2010 as the most likely package to be cancelled based on our objective metrics evaluation.   In December 2010, UC librarians reviewed these data and confirmed the CDL’s assessment. In addition, CDL was notified in November 2010 by IHC that the UC system would be charged a new ‘multi-site fee’ beginning in January.  This new fee would have resulted in a 50% increase in UC’s cost in 2011. CDL and the UC community are committed to working with scholarly publishers to develop pricing and business models that work for both libraries and publishers.  Arbitrary and unrealistic pricing actions by publishers must be discouraged and refused at all costs, particularly when budgets are declining and value metrics demonstrate that the publisher’s content has less value than other health sciences titles. In order to monitor the impact of this cancellation decision within the UC community, CDL will review 2011 IHC interlibrary loan transactions and will collect and analyze comments received by campus libraries. More detailed information on the Informa cancellation for UC Librarians is available here.