Focus on Academic and Research: Libraries: Librarians Speak out to Journal Publishers

By Kaser, Dick | Computers in Libraries, May 2009 | Go to article overview

Focus on Academic and Research: Libraries: Librarians Speak out to Journal Publishers


Kaser, Dick, Computers in Libraries


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'Digital repositories at present are not a replacement for journals. The IRs support faculty by preserving unique materials. They augment, but do not replace.'

--Steven Mandeville-Gamble (George Washington University)

What is the economic situation in libraries these days? What are academic and research libraries doing with regard to making the resources in their collections more discoverable? Are they involved in institutional repository (IR) projects? And how do IRs and the availability of open access journals affect library purchasing decisions?

Those were just some of the questions posed to a group of librarians in a recent focus group conducted in Washington, D.C., by consultant Rita Scheman for the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP).

Six librarians participated in the focus group, observed by about 60 primary journal publishers actively scribbling notes. No doubt everyone in the room walked away with a slightly different impression. Here are the impressions I brought home.

Contingency Planning

Academic and research libraries are battening down the hatches in an effort to weather the current economic storm. Every librarian in the focus group described a slightly different economic model for his or her library. But several librarians reported that they have already cut at least 5% from their collections budget this year, with another 5% cut expected. And a contingency plan is in effect for yet another 5% reduction--for up to a 15% cut overall.

To fill the gap, some librarians are accelerating their digital migration plans and renewing their interest in "robust" document delivery services as an alternative to keeping active subscriptions to all of the journal titles their researchers might conceivably need.

Bill Mayer of American University (AU) reported that there will be "no bound volumes on site" by the end of this year. And Beth Bernhardt from the University of North Carolina--Greensboro (UNCG) said the library is clearing an entire floor to make room for an increasing student population. The materials being "cleared" are print journals, now substituted with electronic access to the titles via "big deals" with journal publishers.

Going Where the Users Are

As the push for electronic solutions accelerates, many of the libraries are ramping up their extant efforts to develop services that support resource discovery.

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Bernhardt sparked a great deal of interest when she reported that UNCG is integrating library services within the campus course management system, Blackboard (www.blackboard.com). UNCG, she reported, has added a Library Services tab to the interface that provides links to library resources tuned to the student's major.

Carol Hughes at the University of California-Irvine (UCI) described her university's campuswide portal initiative as taking a similar approach. "The value proposition," said Hughes, "is not in being a silo, but being where users are."

Extending Digital Offerings to Ebooks

Stimulated by the need to both cut costs and save space--but also driven by user demand for services delivered to the desktop--many of the libraries were also considering expanding their ebook offerings.

Mayer said, "At American University, we're leaping into ebooks in a big way, but the issue is user uptake. …

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