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In late 2008, the University of Oregon's library faced a financial double punch. The recession meant belt tightening across the university at a time when the rising cost of journal subscriptions had already put a strain on the library's budget. "We were faced with a two-pronged financial attack here," recalled David C. Fowler, the library's head of licensing, grants administration, and collection analysis.
Something had to give. That something, as it turned out, was Oregon's so-called Big Deals with two heavyweight publishers, Elsevier and John Wiley & Sons. Big Deals provide large collections of journal articles but also lock institutions into multiyear subscriptions at rising prices that many libraries say they can no longer afford. At Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, another institution under pressure to make ends meet, those deals were eating up 40 percent of the library's materials budget.