Libraries’ journal subscriptions receive budget support from president, provost

Vanessa Scott looking through stacks of journals in library.
Washington State University student Vanessa Scott, a junior from Thousand Oaks, Calif., looks through the stacks of current journals Oct. 25 at the Terrell Library in Pullman.

By Nella Letizia, WSU Libraries

To prevent another round of cuts to WSU Libraries’ journals subscriptions, WSU President Kirk Schulz and WSU Provost Dan Bernardo recently designated an additional $150,000 to the libraries’ budget.

This is the second consecutive year the president and provost have allocated additional money to the libraries’ journal fund, with $500,000 designated in 2017.

Like other academic libraries around the U.S. and world, WSU Libraries face the daunting task of maintaining academic journal subscriptions for faculty, staff and students, amid rising inflation costs from publishers. The result is yearly cuts to journal packages and diminishing title offerings.

“In terms of saving our journal budget, we’re long past cutting out any easily shed titles,” said WSU Libraries Dean Jay Starratt. “At this point, any journal we propose cutting has been used or cited by WSU researchers, or are publications in which WSU researchers have published in.

“We are truly grateful for this funding by the president and provost, not only because we have the means to keep our academic journal packages for another year, but also because for the first time in 30 years, we have moved up in Association of Research Libraries rankings as a result of not cutting titles,” Starratt added.

Long history of cancellations

According to Joel Cummings, head of collection development, up until the past two years, the WSU Libraries had nearly annual journal cancellations since about 1992. The libraries today subscribe to large journal packages and databases, which have the advantage of offering more variety, but without the ability to pick which titles get bundled.

In general, prices for these packages go up about 6 percent per year on average, Cummings said. Even with stable funding, WSU Libraries fell behind.

“It is encouraging to gain ground in this area,” Starratt noted. “The materials budget is improving, finally allowing us to match our achievements and excellence in information literacy instruction and the Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation, which has brought in more than $2 million in grant funds.”

Open access repositories

One avenue for ensuring that information is accessible in a more equitable way, even to groups that can’t afford high subscription costs to access journals, is publishing work in an open access repository, according to Talea Anderson, WSU scholarly communications librarian.

“I think open access repositories can provide visibility to a variety of research and educational materials, some of which hasn’t traditionally had a home in academic publications, like datasets, theses and supplementary materials,” Anderson said. “For some disciplines that thrive on rapid dissemination of information, open access repositories can also be really useful for conveying information quickly.”

Open to WSU researchers, the university’s Research Exchange promotes the preservation and sharing of scholarship produced at WSU. All faculty members, staff, students and affiliates can share their research in any digital format, including articles, book chapters, working papers, technical reports, conference presentations, datasets, images, media and more.

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