With LSU Libraries’ Elsevier journal package up for renewal at the end of 2019, librarians and teaching and research faculty across LSU are in dialogue about the costs of keeping—or cancelling—the subscription bundle. If renewed, the 1846 journals in the collection will come with a price tag of $2 million, a continuation of the serials price inflation that has been rapidly outpacing budget increases and forcing the Libraries to chip away at allocations for important resources like books and databases.
On Tuesday, April 23, the LSU Faculty Senate will vote on Resolution 19-05, which recommends cancellation of the LSU Libraries’ subscription to the bundle of Elsevier journals and adoption of a subscription model that would involve subscribing to titles in an à la carte manner, allowing the Libraries to narrow its Elsevier journal subscriptions to journals that are the most appropriate for LSU’s needs. While the move would free the Libraries from the cost increases to the package deal, it would also mean a large cut in the number of journal titles for the university. Stanley Wilder, dean of LSU Libraries, has formed a task force to explore potential consequences, anticipate future actions for the Libraries, and prepare to mitigate problems resulting from a large scale cancellation.
Jacob Fontenot, head of Interlibrary Loan and member of the task force, has spent months researching and testing expedited delivery options for journal articles. “Our delivery time for journal articles is already fast,” says Fontenot. “A recent analysis of 1061 requests from the College of Agriculture reveals that 87% of them were met in under 48 hours, with 31% being met in less than 4 hours.” If the cancellations are made, researchers can expect an even quicker response time with a new expedited delivery service called Reprints Desk. “With Reprints Desk we anticipate filling requests within 2 hours, even outside of business hours,” says Fontenot.
LSU Libraries is not alone. In recent years, rising costs of journal subscriptions have motivated dozens of US university libraries and numerous European scholarly societies and universities to cancel subscriptions to “big deal” journal packages, the name for bundles of journals large publishers offer to libraries at discounted prices compared to the individual costs for each journal. The University of California System, Florida State University, and Temple University have already canceled or announced plans to cancel their big deals with Elsevier, the biggest and most expensive of the journal publishers. Libraries have also canceled big deals with Springer, Wiley, Taylor & Francis, and others.