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Queen's University Library

Collection Cost Reduction Strategy


Academic libraries across the country are experiencing significant challenges to their information resources budgets, and Queen’s University is no exception.

Our library will be working with the university community to shape the way forward, as we grapple with the dramatic change in the value of the Canadian dollar in addition to ongoing inflationary increases. The drastic decline in the value of our dollar has effectively increased the costs of most information resources by more than 20% in the past two fiscal years.

Even with recent increases to the acquisitions budget, spending must be reduced. Fewer new materials can be purchased, not all subscriptions can be renewed and not all requests can be met. As our librarians continue to strive to meet the needs of new and existing academic programs and research, we appreciate the understanding of faculty and students and your input on collection priorities.

Current pressures

Canadian dollar
Our largest currency exposure is to the U.S. dollar. The value of the Canadian dollar against the U.S. dollar has fallen by about 20 cents in the past two years. That means the buying power of the library's acquisitions budget has been reduced by approximately $2 million for currency reasons alone.

Publishing models and licensing costs
A recent study confirmed that five commercial publishers account for more than half of today's published journal output in natural/medical sciences and social sciences/humanities. These publishers sell journal packages (“big deals”), which have significantly increased the content available to the University. However, these are large ongoing expenditures that leave little room for budget flexibility. Costs for these vendor packages and all e-resources continue to increase annually, beyond the normal rate of inflation.

New and continuing needs
Supporting the university's priorities in student learning and research prominence is at the core of the library's mission. In managing acquisitions, this means addressing several factors:

Our strategy

We need to make significant changes to continue to support the information resource needs of learning and research while balancing the budget. For every new request submitted, the library faces the question of which materials it can stop purchasing.

The library has embarked on a project to review and reduce acquisition costs in consultation with university departments. This review and resulting changes will be guided by the following important principles:

  1. Support current research and academic program priorities
    Decisions must take into account strategic institutional priorities, the needs of all disciplines, publishing variations between disciplines, and the needs of scholars at different stages of their careers.
  2. Listen to users

    Faculty and student requests are very helpful for informing acquisition decisions, though not all requests can be met. New title suggestions and recommendations for subject expansion will be evaluated using carefully refined criteria. For new subscription requests, we appreciate suggestions for an associated cancellation of current subscribed titles. Feedback on collections is welcome at any time, through departmental liaison librarians and online at:https://library.queensu.ca/librequest/qul_quest

  3. Contain subscription costs
    Criteria will continue to be reviewed and refined for the cancellation of annual licenses for electronic resources. In addition to the principles of academic/research priorities and user demand, factors such as usage data, licensing terms, cost increases, content duplication and discoverability will provide a complete picture to guide our decisions.

  4. Curate Collections
    Criteria will continue to be reviewed and refined for managing our reduced buying power for books, periodicals, videos and other physical media, as they continue to be important for research, particularly in the humanities and social sciences. New models, including on-demand acquisitions, will be explored. Orders through approval plans and most individual selections are on hold as we determine the savings that can be achieved through our annual review of subscriptions for electronic resources and journals.

  5. Develop a comprehensive information resources strategy
    Managing the acquisitions budget sits within a broader priority of developing a comprehensive information resources strategy that raises awareness of resources and addresses challenges and opportunities in evolutions in digital content, stewardship of print collections, and new collaborations in collection development and management. For example: open access models of scholarly publishing are being actively pursued; purchasing through consortia negotiations will continue as a strategy for containing costs of e-resources (the Ontario Council of University Libraries has issued a statement to vendors outlining several principles to mitigate issues in upcoming renewals); opportunities for collaborative collection development are beginning to be explored in the Ontario Council of University Libraries; and interlibrary loans continue to be an alternative to requesting materials for purchase.

The library reviews renewals and acquisitions annually to ensure we continue to provide the Queen's community with excellent collections. While there are difficult decisions ahead, we will continue to be careful stewards of our collections and our acquisitions dollars. We will continue to communicate and engage with our faculty and students.

Falling Canadian dollar raises longstanding issue of journal costs, Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL)

This communiqué, Falling Canadian dollar raises longstanding issue of journal costs, released by CARL explores the pressures Canadian research libraries face owing to the rising costs of subscription journals, highlighted by the falling Canadian dollar.


Last Updated: 04 February 2016

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