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Looking an open access gift horse in the mouth

In agreement with Phil Davis' post from last week concerning EMBO and
SPARC Europe and as a reaction to the latest post regarding PLoS and the
institution of member fees, I pose the following questions which make me
feel somewhat like another member of the equine family but nonetheless,
here they are...

How do most libraries differentiate between institutional membership fees
and subscription fees? Do you feel the need to make this distinction at
all? Can or should membership fees be paid through subscription agents?

As a group, do we feel that these fees are sustainable at the levels at
which they are being instituted or will we begin to see increases as the
realities of electronic scholarly publishing and maintenance take hold and
as the grant funding presently underwriting some of these endeavors dries

It is a much more agreeable matter for an academic institution to support
BioMedCentral or Public Library of Science than some commercial
enterprises, however, bearing in mind both the understanding that instead
of buying back published research from the commercial sector, libraries
are now underwriting the publication of research and that the current
pricing structures and models do not seem sustainable at their current
levels, are libraries better off with the membership fee model? It has
been said that $1500 does not go very far in the creation and support of
one to two electronic articles much less a whole electronic sphere of

Have libraries been able to benefit at a greater extent from the research
dollars garnered by their parent institutions if libraries are
facilitating the publishing of this research?

Basically all of these questions lead to the same bottom line: are most
libraries just accepting that open access membership fees are a feasible
model and that future price increases can be absorbed?

Cordially submitted,

Jill Emery
Director, Electronic Resources Program
University of Houston  
114 University Libraries
Houston, TX 77204-2000
713.743.9778 (fax)