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April 4, 2003

Plan considers inflation when cutting journals

by Linda Charles
Last week, the University Library Committee recommended that future reductions in academic journals be a combination of across-the-board cuts and reductions based on inflation in subject areas.

The recommendation must be approved by the dean of library services and provost.

"The plan treats small and large departments more fairly than using either across-the-board reductions or inflation-based approaches to reductions," said David Hopper, committee chair. "This recommendation addresses the problem in some areas that have huge inflationary increases."

There are no current plans for a reduction in journals, Hopper said, but continued inflationary increases in journal subscriptions (averaging about 12 percent a year) exceed the typical 4 to 6 percent annual inflationary increases the library has received for its acquisitions budget.

"The library certainly will be facing the prospect of making yet another reduction in the number of journals it holds," Hopper said. "We want to have a model in place the next time an adjustment is needed."

The committee also is expected to make a recommendation on the relative proportions of across-the-board and inflationary cuts.

The committee's recommendation is an outgrowth of a special report the committee and the Faculty Senate issued in 1999 that examined the upward spiral of the cost of scholarly communications. The report's 27 recommendations focused on building an electronic library, providing quality access to journal information and providing a mechanism to address future cost increases.

The University Library Committee is reviewing the report. Progress has been made on a number of the recommendations. For example, the university's electronic library has increased from approximately 150 titles in 1999 to more than 5,000 titles this year.

Kristin Gerhard, associate dean for collections and technical services at the library, said using only across-the-board reductions has a negative impact on disciplines whose journals have not had significant cost inflation. On the other hand, using only the inflationary method has more impact on disciplines that experience high inflationary increases for their journals.

"The next cut will be the first time we have inflation data for our journals. In the past, we've relied on what the publication companies say the inflation is," Gerhard said. Library staff have been gathering inflationary information on the journals since 1998.

Having a system in place to deal with journal cuts is important, Gerhard said, "because the library needs lead time to prepare for a journal cancellation project. The process used at the university in the past to determine these reductions has been a collaborative effort between the faculty and the library, an effort we wish to continue.

"This process is necessarily more time-consuming than the approaches taken at many academic libraries, with librarians determining what titles to cancel without a great deal of consultation," she added.

The library has reduced its journal subscriptions four times. In 1980-81 and 1986-87, journals were reduced 10 percent. A 13 percent reduction occurred in 1991-92 and a 14 percent reduction in 1998-99.

There are some things that faculty can do to help reduce the need for journal reductions, Hopper said. For example, they can modify contracts with commercial publishers to ensure their rights to use their work, including posting it on public archives.

More ideas are available online at

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