Memorial University has come to a final decision on cancelling academic journals: as of 2016 the library will stop subscribing to 1,700 titles and will have reduced access to more than 2,000 journals.

MUN is cancelling its subscription to four major publisher packages, which cost a combined $1.4 million and include five per cent of the library’s total journals.

Out of the roughly 4,000 journals in these packages, MUN will pay $600,000 to independently re-subscribe to 220 titles.

The library will also subscribe to just over 2,000 of these journals through cheaper third party services, but faculty and students won’t be able to access new articles from these journals until 12 months after they are published.

You can read the full list of cancelled and retained journals on MUN’s website.

The library decided which journals to cut and which to maintain through a process of consultations, largely with faculty.

Interim head librarian Louise White said that they considered many factors when making their decision.

“So there was how many people wanted the title, how many people spoke for it, what case did they build for that particular title, what was the use on that title over the last several years, and in particular that is the use in the current year on those titles,” she said.

MUN subscribed to 80,000 in total, before the cancellations.
MUN subscribed to 80,000 in total, before the cancellations.

Strong U.S. dollar pushing prices up

White said it’s important to note that only new content will be affected by these cancellations; all articles published up until December 2015 will still be available.

“Clearly there has been some degree of loss here. But that’s just the fiscal reality,” said White.

“We’re spending a lot of time and energy and thought on keeping that as balanced across the disciplines as we can and to make the best use of the dollar that is made available to us to get the best value.”

MUN spends $7.5 million on its academic journal collection, however, university librarians say that this money no longer goes as far as it needs to.

Subscription costs increase by five to 15 per cent each year, according to White, as publishers push up their price in a strengthening U.S. economy.

The library also pays for 85 per cent of its journals in U.S. dollars, so a plummeting Canadian dollar makes them even more expensive.

More cancellations could be on the way

White said these four journal packages, Cambridge, Oxford, Springer and Wiley, were the target of cuts because their subscriptions were up for renewal this year.

As other publisher packages come up for renewal, White said they too will have to be considered for cancellation.

Universities across Canada are dealing with similar problems; Ryerson University recently announced it too would have to make cuts to its journal subscriptions for similar reasons.

White said the commercialization of the journal publishing industry has been a frustrating problem for many years.

“This is something that libraries have been struggling with for a long time, and is the impetus for the open access movement,” she said.

“There’s a lot of appetite in academic to share, to disseminate their knowledge as freely as possible. And it’s become commercialized. So it’s a very big problem.”

White said despite the cancellations the library will still run a deficit this year, although she is not yet sure how large it will be.

“At this point it will unfold as it unfolds. We’ve taken as much corrective action as we can take in this year, trying to contain the harm to the collection as a whole,” she said.

Cancelled journal articles will still be available through a digital document delivery service.

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