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
"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
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
"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
Ames, Iowa 50011, (515) 294-4111
Published by: University Relations,
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