Information Update - Spring 2004
From the Library DirectorScholarly communication continues to be one of the greatest changes facing today’s academic libraries. The traditional system of scholarly communication is not working. Libraries and their institutions worldwide can no longer keep up with the increasing volume and cost of scholarly resources. Worldwide journal prices continue to rise significantly faster than inflation and library budgets. In North America, for example, research libraries spent 227% more on journals in 2002 than in 1986. In the UK, journal prices rose 158% between 1991 and 2001 compared to a 28% increase in inflation.
Authors communicate with only those of their peers lucky enough to be at an institution that can afford to purchase or license access to their work. Readers only have access to a fraction of the relevant literature, potentially missing vital papers in their fields.
The promise of the digital revolution to shrink costs and expand access has been threatened by those publishers that have sought to maximize revenues by raising prices and restricting use. But efforts to counter this trend – employing new technologies and business models to provide wider access at lower cost – are underway and gaining momentum.
Involvement by the academic community is critical in ensuring that efforts using new technologies and business models to provide wider access at lower cost succeed. We can make a difference by doing the following:
Encourage discussion of scholarly communication issues and proposals for change in your academic department.
Where possible, publish in open-access journals, which employ funding models that do not charge readers or their institutions for access. Serve on editorial boards or review manuscripts for open-access journals. (For a list of open-access journals, see the Directory of Open Access Journals at www.doaj.org).
Encourage your professional society to explore alternatives to contracting or selling its publications to a commercial publisher.
Encourage your professional society to maintain (or adopt!) reasonable prices and user-friendly access terms.
Encourage your professional society to consider creating enhanced competitors to expensive commercial titles.
Modify, if appropriate, any contract you sign with a publisher ensuring your right to use your work, including posting on a public archive.
Carefully examine the pricing, copyright, and subscription licensing agreements of any journal you contribute to as an author, reviewer, or editor.
Consider using your influence by refusing to review for expensive journals; by declining to serve on editorial boards of such publications; by supporting the library's cancellation of expensive, low-use titles; and by encouraging colleagues to do the same.
Invite library participation in faculty departmental meetings to discuss scholarly communication issues.
Explore with local or regional library consortia to set up an institutional repository to permanently archive the intellectual wealth of our institution (www.arl.org/sparc/IR/ir.html).
Source: Adapted from The Create Change Brochure created and sponsored by:
Association of College and Research Libraries, Association of Research Libraries, SPARC, SPARC Europe
Charles E. Kratz, Library Director