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RE: Elsevier and cancellations

I have some comments about the message from Bob Michaelson (Elsevier &
Cancellations) forwarded by David Goodman. First, I believe that
OhioLINK's arrangement with Elsevier is not for ScienceDirect. OhioLINK
(and some other groups) provide access to all of the Elsevier titles
through their own servers. So assumptions about pricing and terms may not
always be true.

Because my library accesses Elsevier journals on the Los Alamos server
rather than Elsevier's, I am not familiar with ScienceDirect terms, but
for us, pricing was linked to our print holdings by subject area (as
defined by Elsevier's publishing groups): in those areas where we
subscribed to more than a designated percentage of the journals, we pay an
additional amount to have access to the rest of the journals in the group.
For those groups where we subscribed to less than the designated
percentage, we do not pay any additional fee to get access to all the
journals in that group (beyond the surcharge we pay for electronic access
to any of our print titles in that group). Large libraries like Robert's
and David's might not benefit from that pricing structure, but it works
well for us.

Also, Bob's argument "You have the obligation to make a considered
judgement on which electronic titles you provide access to, just as you
have that obligation in considering which print titles to subscribe to or
cancel" should be considered within the context of a library's budget.
There are many quality Elsevier journals that we would have liked to
subscribe to in past years, but could not afford. By having access to all
the Elsevier journals, even though there are some that we would not have
chosen even if we had the money, for the first time we have access to many
that we want. Many faculty are ecstatic, some are now using our electronic
resources for the first time. Since we subsidize document delivery
heavily, the money we will save there will help cover the cost of the
Elsevier package.

We do not have usage statistics yet, but I have heard from other LANL
participants that they were surprised at the amount of use certain
journals were getting, despite the fact that subscriptions (and even
articles from those journals) had never been requested. In some
specialized libraries, journals from seemingly unrelated disciplines are
being used. I have heard the opinion expressed that the availability of a
large searchable package of electronic journals will contribute to better
cross-disciplinary communication and might even influence scientific

We are in a time of experimentation. All of us in libraries would like for
electronic journals to save us money, and all the commercial publishers
would like to make more money, or at least not to lose the revenue stream
that they have had. Each library has its budget and its priorities, and
some deals will seem good to some libraries, and some publishers won't
find many customers for their packages. Costs will adjust to the
marketplace. In our cost-benefit analysis, Elsevier was offering a good
deal (especially after some negotiation), some other publishers weren't.
Alternative forms of scholarly publishing might change the whole landscape
in the near or far future (let's hope, and let's do what we can to help),
but for now, when our faculty are still attached to Elsevier journals, I
really like being able to provide so much more than they've ever had, for
a relatively good price. It will be interesting to see what will be used,
and to do cost-benefit analyses based on those statistics. I don't feel
that we have "forever committed" ourselves.

To do as Robert suggests and refrain from acquiring bundled electronic
journals so as not to give up the ability to influence the continuation or
discontinuation of the publication of "garbage" will in SOME cases be a
disservice to the researchers who would love to have access to most of the
journals in the package, and could not get it any other way. Another
approach is to make it all available and let the users determine what is
garbage. One possibility is that if some obscure journals attract new
kinds of submissions because they are made known online, that might
improve their quality and help reduce the number of new journals. We can't
know the results of making these packages available without at least some
of us trying it.

Donnie Curtis
Director of Research Services
University of Nevada, Reno Libraries