Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Perception of the Big Deal one year on (Monday PM)

Jill Taylor Roe had her work cut out running a discussion-based workshop in the not very intimate surroundings in the Pentland Auditorium. She started by presenting plenty of evidence that budget pressures are starting to bite.

A survey of Nesli colleagues showed a rough 50/50 split between those happy and unhappy with big deals. Those unhappy complained about
  • lack of options in adding/excluding content
  • increased costs
  • hard to find money for non big deals
An ALPSP 2009 survey showed high renewal rates for big deals, but cancellations and downgrades to subject clusters were starting to increase. A CIBER survey from 2009
The Economic Downturn and Libraries [pdf] noted that academic libraries expect to reduce budgets and reduce spending on information resources, going beyond efficiency savings into real cuts.

From a UK perspective, currency rates have improved since last Jan/Feb, and so far libraries generally haven't cancelled big deals. Some publishers have shown sensitivity in terms of zero price increases, but librarians' wish list of improvements still haven't been met (eg deals not based on historical print spend, easier to switch to e-only, more flexibility).

There are still hard times ahead: library budgets are at best static (meaning cuts in real terms) whereas Swets are forecasting 5% increases in journal costs on average. Many people in the room felt that 2010 was better than expected but 2011 may be a worse year, certainly in the UK, as one-off funding and emergency measures come to an end.

Were any solutions offered during the discussion?
  • Agents/intermediaries may be in a position to help both sides, especially where there are language/cultural differences between publishers and libraries
  • The library community needs to send price messages to publishers in same way consumers do: are they willing to walk away from deals, and force re-negotiation of terms?
  • Is Open Access an answer? Libraries are paying out to publishers on both sides at the moment, and take up of open access for the biggest STM publishers is still tiny compared to overall costs
  • Would wholesale migration to e-only reduce library operating costs in a significant way? Only up to a point, since eventually print processing is minimised and as much as possible switched to e-only. Necessary staff for managing e-resources tend to be at a higher level compared to print, not to mention that budget for staff and resources are often in separate pots and libraries cannot use one to pay for the other.

What's the one thing which participants thought would make things easier?
  • UK libraries negotiating jointly like Scandinavia, Germany etc, and as SHEDL are doing in Scotland.
  • Most people don't want to see big deals abolished but they need to be smaller and more flexible.
  • Would document delivery models be an answer? They would have to be financially viable. Pay per view has proved to be more expensive than individual subscriptions and big deals in many cases.
  • Zero VAT on electronic books/journals would help (although others felt that an overall increase in VAT was a more likely scenario)
It was obvious from the discussion that there wasn't a straightforward answer, and also noticeable that although there were many vocal librarians, there weren't many voices in the room representing the major STM publishers.

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