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re: online discussion on 'bundled' subscriptions of journals for


I agree with your observation that the likelihood for a viable big deal
-aka the complete option in Elsevier terms- is probably greater for
smaller institutions because of there would be few if any duplicates and
choices for substitutions e.g. cancel an Elsevier journal and add another
Elsevier, Acad. Press, Mosby, Saunders journal are more 'workable'.
However, an important factor in the decision-making for us was the fact
that we had made very extensive cuts in the mid 1990s based on use data
gathered for all journals. It was a process with some flaws but in
retrospect we had to re-instate very few <3% of the 200+ subscriptions cut
in 1995/96. We clearly did not make the cuts in those years to prepare for
a big deal but rather because of the financial realities in those years.
Since 1994 we have monitored use of our print collection and evaluated the
indicators of need for new subscriptions (Ill data, user feedback).

Throughout the process of reviewing the Elsevier deal I asked myself the
following questions:

1. What are our options 'down the road' if we need an exit from the
contract. While we could switch to the 'pick and choose titles' option,
the disincentive of having to pay twice as much for the electronic access
for each subscription would -up to a point- keep us in a situation with
limited choices, i.e. having to substitute among Elsevier titles if we
discontinue an Elsevier subscription. This is a risk that is greater if a
library has more duplicates, no good use data, and fewer good substitution
choices to make cuts under the terms of the big deal.

2. What happens to the complete option if the 'pool' of Elsevier journals
changes - either shrinks or grows?

I feel that at this point our current set of Elsevier journals is a good
base for the 'big deal' - despite some qualms. (For example, such deals
favor Elsevier: only large publishers can offer such deals with terms that
guarantee them predictable sales volume and increases, and if we are
agreeing to one big deal with our largest publisher there is less of a
chance we will be able to accept additional 'big deals' from other
publishers - after all we have to be able to able to respond to changes in
funding levels and in demand for journals)

Again, because we have a set of journal subscriptions for which we have
monitored the use data for a number of years, it was easier for us to
accept it as a viable base for a big deal.

Alfred Kraemer
Head, Tech. Services
Medical College of Wisconsin Libraries
Milwaukee, WI 53226
E-mail: akraemer@mcw.edu

> How many of these were unique subscriptions? How many were even unique
> subscriptions at their campuses? In the past, many of Wisconsin's
> cancellations in science have been titles held by two or more libraries
> at Madison. Even for a school as large as Madison, these duplications
> have become redundant in the electronic journal era. (Thus, naturally,
> the insistence of some publishers in counting the past duplicates in
> the base price.)
> But even Madison can not be able to continue along that road
> indefinitely. By now, I suspect essentially all of their expensive
> duplicates have been cancelled. Smaller universities, without a
> separate medical library, let along an agricultural library, have
> reached that point some years back.
> In general the advantages of the big deal are greater for small
> institutions than for those large and diverse enough to get most of the
> titles anyway. But such contracts will not have advantages for any of
> us much longer. Since journal price increases will be proportionately
> larger than budget increases, the eventual result for all is the same.
> On Mon, 16 Sep 2002, Tom Murray wrote:
>> A comment on the topic of big deals:  Last fall the campuses across
>> the University of Wisconsin System, including Madison, cancelled a
>> total of $500,000 in Elsevier subscriptions, about 30 percent of our
>> expenditures with Elsevier at that time.  We have reinstated very few
>> of those, and to my knowledge we have received very few complaints
>> from faculty members or students.  Certainly that is true at Madison,
>> where we cancelled $275,000 last fall, following several other
>> significant cancellation exercises in recent years.
>> Over 5 years, if Elsevier prices average a 6 percent increase every
>> year, the savings from last year's actions alone will total more than
>> $2.8 million.
>> We continue to evaluate the way we spend our limited (most often flat)
>> collection budgets every year.  We expect to cancel additional
>> journals from Elsevier and other commercial publishers.
>> If we had agreed to a big deal with Elsevier, we would not have the
>> ability to critically review and revise our collection spending every
>> year, and we would unnecessarily spend millions of scarce collection
>> dollars.
>> Tom Murray
>> Director, Wendt Engineering Library
>> University of Wisconsin-Madison