Update on Future of Journal Subscriptions for UConn Library – January 2023

UConn Library has been shifting over the past ten years from just-in-case collection development practices to a budget sustainable just-in-time approach for providing access to scholarly information. Journals have always required a significant source of funding, and as journal costs rose exponentially over the last two and a half decades, libraries paid for “Big Deal” journal subscription bundles with flat or reduced library budgets. This meant cutting the other materials and services that libraries provide. “Big Deal” packages were once a way for libraries to pay for access to large amounts of content at reduced rates, but the increases in costs for packages have far outpaced both inflation and library budgets. Additionally, many of the bundled journals are used very little. “Big Deals” have put pressure on the entire library budget and forced academic libraries to eliminate staff, programming, and support services. This is unsustainable.

Every research library regularly cancels journals or ends publisher contracts, including schools such as MIT, Purdue, and UNC Chapel Hill, to stay within their budgets. In the Fall of 2020, Dean Langley and Provost Lejuez convened the Future of Journals Committee, including administrators, faculty, and staff to assess journal subscriptions at UConn with an eye on strategies that would yield a viable long-term solution. The committee-approved pilot project was successful and we began the first phase of Future of Journals in 2021. We are in year three of a six-year implementation schedule. Each year different publisher contracts are not renewed, and we purchase articles on demand, quickly and conveniently, with access paths only slightly different than before. Because publishers limit how we provide articles, you may have to alter how you search and request materials. We have created a guide to help you learn the most efficient methods.

Consistent with the Future of Journal timeline, we did not renew our bundled contract with Elsevier, which expired at the end of 2022. What does this mean for your access to journal articles found in Elsevier and other subscriptions that have not been renewed? Using past use data and forecasting tools we predict that 85% of articles most frequently requested will be available immediately. If an article is not, it can be requested by any member of the UConn community via Interlibrary Loan. Faculty and graduate students have expedited access to articles from a subset of publishers. Depending on where the article comes from, most items will be delivered within five minutes (or less) to an hour. The Library will annually review article usage statistics and other criteria to assess the most cost effective models for access.

We can now manage the Library budget without the burden of the unsustainable increasing costs of journal subscriptions and we’ve been fielding questions and giving presentations to other academic libraries interested in our implementation of this expedited process. It continues to 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.

 You can learn more about the Future of Journals at https://lib.uconn.edu/research/collections/future-of-journals/ and we encourage you to email us your feedback and/or questions at journalsfeedback@uconn.edu.

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