Rightsizing the library budget and supporting research. The continued success of the journal access project at UConn.

The Future of Journals strategy, which shifts us away from cost prohibitive just-in-case collection building to a budget sustainable just-in-time approach, has resulted in both large cost savings and better efficiency in providing UConn researchers articles with speed and accuracy. In fact, between January and September, the overall efficiency of the service delivery for faculty and graduate students has improved; 97% of the article retrieval requests through the new system from journals previously subscribed to (those part of the Future of Journals strategy) took less than a minute to be delivered via email, and 99% within an hour. Interlibrary loan services for all other requests (including articles outside of the project) remain within the industry standard of 11 hours. We are committed to getting researchers the articles they need.

drawing of a computer and an paper article with a hand holding a pencil
Image by Freepik

How did we get here? 

Beginning in 2020, it became clear to the UConn Library and the Provost that managing the library budget amid decreasing state aid and rising annual costs of journal subscriptions was going to require new ways of thinking. At that time the library permanent rescissions and loss of one-time collections support for that fiscal year totaled ~$2.8M.  The strategy developed in consultation with the Future of Journals Committee, composed of faculty and researchers from a variety of fields, is entering its fourth year of successfully shifting how we provide access to scholarly information, with a primary focus on getting researchers what they need easily and quickly. With the shift we met the rescissions, and annually spend between $150K-$200K on providing articles through the new service. Additionally, the budget is not affected by the annual journal subscription cost increases of 6%-10%.

Simply stated, the scholarly publishing crisis of escalating journal costs, rising exponentially over the last two and a half decades, is unsustainable. For “Big Deal” subscription bundle packages, once a way for libraries to pay for access to large amounts of packaged content, the costs have outpaced both inflation and library budgets. Additionally, many of the journals included in the bundles are used very little (very much in line with the Pareto 80/20 principle). “Big Deals” put pressure on the entire library budget and forced academic libraries, including UConn, to eliminate not only journal subscriptions and other material purchases (books, databases, etc.), but also staff, programming, and support services to meet those increases. 

One of the most significant changes to date that came out of the Future of Journals strategy, was the non-renewal of the bundled contract with Elsevier at the end of 2022. Since the start of 2023, the article processing statistics through this new system show a successful rate of delivery, with 97% arriving instantly, usually within a few seconds. Additionally, we have streamlined the process of accessing materials by combining two services into one link, called ‘Get This PDF’, for a more seamless user experience.

two logos - on left is Taylor & Francis Group and on right Wiley

According to our timeline, this January we will not be renewing contracts with the publishers Wiley and Taylor & Francis. We will  provide access at the article level to researchers from those publishers through our expedited article delivery system for faculty and graduate students and the UConn community via Interlibrary Loan. 

Academic libraries across the globe regularly cancel journals or end publisher contracts, including schools such as MIT, Rutgers, Purdue, and UNC Chapel Hill, to stay within their budgets, and our strategy has been taken note of by our peers. We have been working with other academic libraries, regional organizations, and attending conferences helping other institutions struggling with finding solutions to their own budget crises. 

It will always be a top priority for UConn Library to support the research mission of the university. The Future of Journals approach has given UConn the flexibility to be nimble in how we provide access to the library materials you need as the publishing landscape continues to change. Looking ahead our collection strategy will continue to be fine-tuned to allow us to continue to provide the materials, services, and spaces you also rely on. We build responsive and relevant collections by regularly assessing use, publishing models, usability, and monitoring and adopting new functionalities. Our collections remain reflective of the current scholarly communication environment.

We encourage you to email us your feedback and/or questions at journalsfeedback@uconn.edu.

Other Resources:

Guide to Accessing Research Materials
Get This PDF: From Citation to Full Text Article workshop recording
Subject Specialists Contact Information