It’s important to the Libraries that we work transparently, listen to the university community, and improve our subscription management processes over time. Since the subscription reductions in 2015-16, we have taken a variety of opportunities to hear from you and hope that the 2020-21 subscription review will reflect the lessons we’ve learned.
You can read more about past feedback and how it has influenced our practices below. To provide feedback on the current subscription review, we invite you to contact your your Subject Librarian Team or email Director of Collections Madeline Kelly (Madeline.Kelly@wwu.edu).
Following the 2019-20 subscription review process, the Subscription Task Force surveyed faculty to identify opportunities to improve the process for 2020-21. Here are key takeaways from the survey responses, as well as from feedback heard throughout 2019-20:
- For 2020-21, the Libraries plans to engage the university on subscription issues earlier and more directly than in 2019-20. Rather than relying so heavily on passive communications and shared governance channels to get the word out, our Subject Teams will be reaching out to departments starting in fall quarter to begin in-depth conversations about subscriptions, departments’ needs, and each discipline’s values when it comes to scholarly resources. These conversations will continue throughout the 2020-21 academic year and provide ongoing opportunities for both library faculty and departmental faculty to leverage their expertise.
- Rather than asking for department-level feedback on the draft cancellation list, the Libraries will shift to an individual feedback model. While respondents will still be asked to rank their retention requests, they will not be asked to do so in collaboration with departmental colleagues. We hope this approach will provide a less labor-intensive and more equitable way for faculty, staff, and students to provide their input into the process. Following the individual survey, the Libraries’ Subject Teams will work with departments to explore the anonymized, aggregate findings.
- Access to scholarly resources is a university-wide concern central to our identities as teachers, scholars, and professionals. As a community, we need to engage in critical conversations about funding, Open Access, and scholarly communications. However, these conversations deserve dedicated time and space for proper exploration—more than is feasible within the urgent time constraints of the subscription review process. To that end, the 2020-21 process will focus exclusively on how to manage the projected FY2022 shortfall, not on broader questions of funding or scholarly publishing. Outside of the subscription review process, the Libraries will continue to engage in advocacy on behalf of the Resource Access Budget and our user community and we encourage students, faculty, and staff to do the same. Bring your concerns to governance groups like the Senate Library Committee (SLC), University Planning and Resources Council (UPRC), and the Faculty Senate. We hope that these groups will help advance the larger conversation!
In Spring 2019, the Subscription Task Force surveyed faculty regarding subscription evaluation criteria, Open Access, and the subscription review process. (A full report on the survey responses is available as part of the Task Force Interim Report.) Here are key takeaways from the survey responses:
- The Task Force used faculty ratings of each subscription evaluation criterion to inform the final weightings. In particular, the Task Force increased the weight of “Percent of an individual college’s support provided by each resource” to honor the 88 percent of respondents who rated that as “Important” or “Very important.” The Task Force also increased the weight for “Availability of content via ILL” because of its high rating among 79 percent of respondents.
- The Task Force elected to depart from the survey feedback in a few areas. The Task Force maintained weightings for “Average annual price increase” and “Privacy policies,” citing the practical implications of ignoring subscriptions with high annual increases and the value of championing sound privacy practices. The Task Force also elected not to add criteria to reflect faculty publishing, faculty citations, or grant support. These were highly rated by survey respondents, but the Task Force could not locate a sustainable source of data covering all disciplines. Instead, the Task Force hopes that departments will help identify titles with high local relevance during the Winter 2020 review process.
- Respondents expressed interest in a variety of feedback mechanisms for the 2019-20 subscription review process, so the Libraries is implementing departmental surveys, college or department visits, and open forums.
Throughout 2019-20, the Libraries and the Subscription Task Force worked with groups like the Libraries’ Scholarly Resources Group, Senate Library Committee, University Planning and Resources Council, and Faculty Senate. The Task Force also hosted two open forum presentation sessions in February 2020 in order to provide answers to questions and to hear feedback and concerns.
Following the 2015-16 subscription reductions, the Libraries surveyed faculty for feedback on the process. Here are key takeaways from the survey responses:
- More than a third of faculty were unsure whether the subscriptions they requested for retention were actually retained. In 2019-20, the Libraries plans to communicate before and after subscription cancellations to ensure that final decisions are clear and that library users are connected to the resources and services (e.g. ILL) that they need.
- In the comments section of the survey, many respondents critiqued cost-per-use as too simplistic to be the primary driver of cancellation decisions. In 2019-20, the Libraries has incorporated a greater diversity of criteria into the evaluation process in order to capture a more nuanced snapshot of each subscription’s value.
- Respondents also suggested a range of other possible factors--beyond cost-per-use--to take into consideration, including: Western faculty publishing and citation habits, grant-funded projects, publications by professional societies, relevance to marginalized groups or identities, Western faculty on editorial boards, and connection to the Pacific Northwest. In Spring 2019, the Subscription Task Force surveyed faculty about these criteria to determine which might carry the most weight (see above).