From Western Libraries: Subscription Cancellations and Securing Access to Information

Over the next six months, the Western Libraries will engage the university in important conversations about our collective mission, the information landscape, and the implications for library subscriptions. The vision of our university calls on each of us to advance the ideals of exploration, critical thinking, connection, and creativity. Collectively, we seek to provide a transformational educational experience for our students, grounded in innovative scholarship, research, and creative activity; as well as justice and equity in our policies, practices, and impacts. 

In this spirit, Western Libraries continues to move forward in new directions, favoring broad access to information over more traditional models of ownership, challenging the narrative that knowledge can be owned, and seeking ways to keep information open to the community where it can best serve the greater good. We are not alone in these efforts: libraries around the world are pushing for a more sustainable, open, and just approach to information, and the current moment represents an opportunity for all of us. 

In the short-term, university conversations about access to information will center necessarily around subscription reductions. Due to the combination of a flat library collections budget and inflation on subscriptions, the Western Libraries anticipates a subscriptions budget shortfall of more than $300K in FY 2020-21, and $80K in subsequent years. This immediate pressure requires that we reduce Western’s subscriptions in favor of a more agile, access-based approach. Read more about our process for tackling this challenge and reducing subscriptions on the Western Libraries Subscription Task Force webpage.  

In the long-term, the proliferation of journal titles, rising costs of library subscriptions, and for-profit journal landscape require a more forward-looking conversation about scholarly publishing. Western has the opportunity to be part of these important discussions; read more about Open Access and the future of scholarly communications on the Task Force webpage.

Throughout the next six months, the Task Force will strive to work transparently and consultatively, and will continue to communicate updates via the Task Force webpage, the Library News and Western Today, department chairs and faculty governance, leadership groups like the AS Board and the Graduate Student Advisory Council, all-faculty emails, and the Libraries’ subject teams

We appreciate your feedback and look forward to a robust conversation about the future of publishing, scholarly communication, and library subscriptions. Remember: Western is not alone in this struggle. Universities across the country and around the world are grappling with unsustainable subscription pricing and engaging in serious conversations about the future of scholarly publishing. We hope that Western will be part of those conversations, as well.

For more information on how the Libraries manages subscriptions, consult the Subscription Management Glossary and FAQ. For more information on Open Access and the scholarly publishing ecosystem, review the SPARC Open Access page, which includes a downloadable Open Access fact sheet.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2020 - 9:48am