It is with great sadness that we learned of Stuart McLean’s passing yesterday. McLean had a deep connection to and history at Ryerson. He joined the Journalism department as faculty in 1985, and served for a time as the Director of the broadcast division of the School of Journalism. He retired in 2004.
In an effort to mitigate the effects of repeated budget reductions, inflation and the weakened Canadian dollar, the library has found that it needs to reduce base collections expenditure. After a great deal of analysis and consideration, we have deduced that the cancellation of Business Source Elite and Academic Search Premier, both EBSCO aggregator databases, will have the least adverse impact on the Ryerson community at large. Access to these resources via Ryerson Library will cease as of March 2016.
In 2011, the library introduced the Search Everything feature, which is a tool that allows users to search across several databases at once. Consequently, we have seen a marked decrease in Business Source Elite (-63.7%) and Academic Search Premier (-72.8%) searches over the last four years. With significantly decreased usage coupled with annual increases in price averaging 3-4%, the library has determined that we are no longer seeing value for this investment.
We understand that you may have concerns about loss of content. Please speak directly to your subject librarian to discuss alternative modes of access. This is not a decision that was made in haste or without careful examination of evidence to support it. Faced with the current fiscal reality, it is a decision that we feel will have the least negative impact on our large and diverse community’s information needs.
PQDT Global now includes citations and often full text access to PhD dissertations and Master’s level theses from universities in the UK and Ireland, adding to its strong coverage of North American and European graduate research.
All dissertations published after mid-1980 include author supplied abstracts. Brief abstracts are available for masters theses published since 1988. Most of the content created after 1997 is available in full text and selective earlier works are also available in full text. Millions of other works created prior to this period and as early as the 17th century are discoverable from bibliographical citations. And the database continues to grow with around 700 universities continuing to contribute new content to this database.
If you’ve ever tried to compete for the latest pair of Adidas designed by Kanye, or lusted after a Birkin bag that you’ll never be able to afford, then you are already familiar with the concept of artificial scarcity. Brands market high end goods as limited editions in order to drive up the price and the demand. It creates exclusivity and buzz around a product.
How, then, does this same marketing ploy weave its way through the world of information buying and selling? Isn’t online content as easy as a ‘click’ to access and share? How can a limit be placed on something that isn’t actually tangible? Leave it to the experts – the folks at Harvard Business Review (HBR) have managed to do exactly that.
Ryerson subscribes to HBR both in print and electronically via the EBSCO database, Business Source Elite. EBSCO has exclusive distribution rights for HBR. The HBR 500, as it’s come to be known in the information world, is a collection of the 500 most read HBR articles (as determined by HBR). In 2013, HBR made these articles “read only”, meaning they could no longer be used as course readings unless the library agreed to pay an outrageously priced supplemental fee, on top of existing subscription fees. This fee ranged from $10,000 to as high as $200,000. We chose not to pay. Sure, you can still find those articles via Business Source Elite, but you can’t link to them, download or print them.
Here’s a screenshot of what this actually looks like – a subtle barrier to access, but a barrier nevertheless:
Exclusivity when it comes to scholarly publications is bad for libraries and bad for students. It hinders access when we should be moving toward open access. It drives up prices for artificial reasons and creates further strain on library and university budgets. What works well in the commercial world is not necessarily contributing to the greater good. Altruistic though it may sound, librarians are on guard to monitor these tactics, lest they set precedents for the rest of the publishing sector.
As we dove into budget preparations for the next fiscal year, we were confronted with an unforeseen challenge: the dollar totally tanked. That had a lot of us doing this:
The library gets a share of the university budget for base operations. In 2012/2013 (most recent CAUBO data available), this was 3% of the total university budget. Approximately 35% of that operations budget (roughly $4 million) is dedicated to growing our library collection. Since 2009/2010, like all other departments, we have also had to factor in the necessary budget reductions in our annual budget plans, averaging 2%-3% base reductions each year.
Regularly, we struggle with making sure ends meet as we see annual inflationary increases from the publishers to whom we are beholden to provide access to the top tier journals in academia. In 2015, that increase was projected to be 6.1%. In years past, particularly in 2011 and 2012, when the dollar was hovering toward par, we enjoyed increased purchasing power. Despite our piece of the pie shrinking, we managed to keep pace without too much effect on the community (i.e. cancellation of resources, as has been the case elsewhere in the province) through strategic purchasing and use of one-time-only money.
And then … the economy threw us for a loop. Despite our best efforts at planning for a worst case scenario, we didn’t quite expect this. In recent months the Canadian dollar tumbled to a low point of .73 (January 30, 2015). The effect on the library’s collection budget is substantial. The majority (approximately 70-75%) of our electronic resources and our monographs are invoiced in US dollars. The price tag for an already expensive journal just got way more expensive.
We still don’t know what the long term effect of this will be on the library’s bottom line. We were lucky to have paid many of our invoices earlier in this fiscal year when the exchange rate was more favorable. But if we now have $500,000 USD worth of of outstanding invoices at this point in the fiscal calendar, we’ll end up paying over $620,000 CAD!
For now, we are watching and waiting …
Further reading on bundled packages from the major publishers: