February 2021 Subscription Update

February 2021 Subscription Update

February 2021 Update

Over the last several months, the Libraries has been engaging with university stakeholders to prepare for a projected subscriptions budget shortfall in FY2022. We are working actively through governance channels to explore sustained mitigation strategies. One-time funding from the Provost’s Office, combined with last-minute savings from publisher negotiations, will reduce this year’s subscription reductions from $164,000 to approximately $60,000 and soften reductions in FY2023 and FY2024. However, even with this influx of one-time funds, without predictable and sustained financial solutions, we will need to plan for subscription reductions totaling approximately $355,000 across FY2023-FY2025.

To meet this year’s reduction target, the Libraries is asking for university-wide feedback on two lists of subscriptions. Given their professional expertise, faculty librarians could make cancellation decisions using existing data; however, the makeup of the university’s subscriptions is a wide-reaching issue, and the Libraries believes that every member of the Western community should have the opportunity to provide input if they wish. The first list, the Draft Cancellation List, includes 35 journals and databases. These titles have been identified based on a variety of quantitative and qualitative criteria and will be cancelled or retained based on the feedback received. The second list, the Package Review List, includes titles from two large journal packages: one from publisher Taylor & Francis and one from the American Chemical Society (ACS). The Libraries may need to break these packages in order to meet reduction targets and is seeking input on what titles and subject areas are of most value to the university. This input will inform upcoming negotiations with both Taylor & Francis and ACS, providing critical context to help the Libraries advocate for the best possible subscription outcomes.

Both title lists are available on the Draft Cancellation List & Package Review List page. Departments are not required to submit single, unified responses; instead, students, faculty, and staff have until March 8 to review the lists and submit feedback via Qualtrics survey. To help guide the university through this process, the Western Libraries Subject Teams will be available to meet with any interested department, institute, or group, to answer questions and hear your feedback. We hope you will take every opportunity--individual or departmental--to communicate your needs.

Methodology & Process

The draft cancellation list was compiled by the Western Libraries after evaluating thousands of subscriptions based on a variety of quantitative and qualitative criteria (learn more about specific criteria on our Subscription Scoring page). We hope that by capturing a more nuanced picture of “value,” this methodology will provide a better starting point for cancellation discussions than cost-per-use alone.

Starting from the draft list, the Libraries now plans to incorporate additional qualitative context to inform the next stage of decision-making. This context--in the form of individual and departmental feedback from you, our constituents--is a critical piece of the process and will contribute to better-informed, though not easier, decisions.

In March, the Libraries will begin aggregating and reviewing the university feedback, meeting with departments and institutes to further understand discipline- and department-level trends. We will also begin reaching out to major publishers to explore options for breaking or reconfiguring our journal packages. By early May, the librarians will submit final cancellation recommendations to Libraries Administration for authorization. Following the cancellation process, Summit and interlibrary loan will continue to provide timely and cost-effective access to materials for which Western does not have a subscription.

Throughout the next six months, the Libraries will strive to work transparently and consultatively, and will continue to communicate updates via this site, the Library News and Western Today, department chairs and faculty governance, leadership groups like the AS Senate and the Graduate Student Advisory Council, all-faculty emails, and the Libraries’ Subject Teams.

If you have questions, please reach out to your Subject Team or contact the Libraries’ Collection Services division. We also encourage you to reach out to your Senate Library Committee or UPRC reps to talk about long-term solutions to the annual subscriptions struggle.