FY19 conferences

NASIG 2011
NASIG spelled out in foam blocks at the City Museum in St. Louis

Charleston Conference is in a couple weeks? I think? I can tell because all the vendors are including inquiries about meeting with me there in all of their correspondence, or making a point to contact me specifically about that. It’s times like this that I think I should set up an auto-responder:

“No, I won’t be attending that conference this year. However, I do have plans to attend NASIG and ____.”

This year, that blank is (hopefully!) going to be filled by the Timberline Acquisitions Institute. I keep checking the website regularly just so I don’t miss the registration notice.

I did a thing yesterday

I spoke at the VIVA User Group meeting on some of the workflow and tools I use to gather information about our faculty’s scholarly output for an annual reception co-hosted by the Libraries and the Provost’s office. If you were there and want the slides/details of what I said, they’re now up on Slideshare with speaker’s notes. If you weren’t there and are curious, I hope you find it interesting/useful.

apathy in our fourth (fifth?) decade of the serials crisis

The 2018 periodicals price survey has been published, and it’s not going to tell you anything you didn’t know already if you have been paying any attention to the scholarly publishing industry. It is a gratifying read only in that it conveys the mix of pessimism, despair, and apathy that I feel at this point when we talk about the unsustainable pricing models for subscription resources in libraries. Or when I am using this data to support our annual budget request that I know will not be enough even if they grant it.

Sometimes I want to burn it all to the ground. Cancel everything with a price increase above CPI-W. But I can’t, because the only people it will hurt are students (faculty can and do get copies of anything they want from colleagues elsewhere). And the publishers know this. And they gleefully take more money from us.

a values conundrum

Scales
photo by Charles Thompson (CC BY 2.0)

‘Tis the season when I spend a lot of time gathering and consolidating usage reports for the previous calendar year (though next year not as many if my SUSHI experiment goes well). Today, as I was checking and organizing some of the reports I had retrieved last week, I noticed a journal that had very little use in the 2017 YOP (or 2016, for that matter), so I decided to look into it a bit more.

The title has a one year embargo and then the articles are open access. Our usage is very low (average 3.6 downloads per year) and most of it, according to the JR5 and JR1 GOA for confirmation, is coming from the open access portion, not the closed access we pay for.

The values conundrum I have is multifaceted. This is a small society publisher, and we have only the one title from them. They are making the content open access after one year, and I don’t think they are making authors pay for this, though I could be wrong. These are market choices I want to support. And yet….

How do I demonstrate fiscal responsibility when we are paying ~$300/download? Has the research and teaching shifted such that this title is no longer needed and that’s why usage is so low? Is this such a seminal title we would keep it regardless of whether it’s being used?

Collection development decisions are not easy when there are conflicting values.

what’s the big deal?

house of cards
photo by Erin Wilson (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I’ve been thinking about Big Deals again lately, particularly as there are more reports of institutions breaking them (and then later having to pick them up again) because the costs are unsustainable. It’s usually just the money that is the issue. No one has a problem with buying huge journal (and now book) bundles in general because they tend to be used heavily and reduce friction in the research process. No, it’s usually about the cost increases, which happen annually, generally at higher rates than library collections budgets increase. That’s not new.

The reality of breaking a Big Deal is not pleasant, and often does not result in cost savings without a severe loss of access to scholarly research. I’m  not at a research institution, and yet, every time I have run the numbers, our Big Deals still cost less than individual subscriptions to the titles that get used more than the ILL threshold, and even if I bump it up to, say, 20 downloads a year, we’re still better off paying for the bundle than list price for individual titles. I can only imagine this is even more true at R1 schools, though their costs are likely exponentially higher than ours and may be bearing a larger burden per FTE.

That gets at one factor of the Big Deal that is not good — the lack of transparency or equity in pricing. One publisher’s Big Deal pricing is based on your title list prior to the Big Deal, which can result in vastly different costs for different institutions for essentially the same content. Another publisher many years ago changed their pricing structure, and in more polite terms told my consortia at the time we were not paying enough (i.e. we had negotiated too good of a contract), and we would see hefty annual increases until we reached whatever amount they felt we should be paying. This is what happens in a monopoly, and scholarly publishing is a monopoly in practice if not in legal terms.

We need a different model (and Open Access as it is practiced now is not going to save us). I don’t know what it is, but we need to figure that out soon, because I am seeing the impending crash of some Big Deals, and the fallout is not going to be pretty.