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Waidner-Spahr Library

Collections Guidelines: Subscriptions to Journals, Databases

Evidence gathered prior to a new subscription

Faculty may recommend new journal or database subscriptions at any time; all requests are recorded in an internal 'wish list' database as they are received.  New subscriptions are carefully evaluated because they entail a long-term financial commitment, and are subject to potentially unpredictable future price increases.  Considerations include: availability of institutional/library license, publication/database quality (content, indexing, publisher reputation, usability); relevance to the current curriculum; uniqueness of content compared to materials already in the library collection; and cost.  In some cases the library may arrange for a free-trial and ask faculty and students to provide feedback prior to a decision.  Subscriptions that are not added are retained on the wish list for review in subsequent fiscal years.

Interlibrary loan access

The library has highly effective interlibrary loan services for fast delivery of individual articles and books that are requested by students and faculty, at no cost to the requestor.  For occasionally-used journal titles, interlibrary loan provides effective access at an affordable cost.  Eighty percent of ILLIAD article requests are delivered electronically in an average delivery time of 13 hours.  Interlibrary loan request patterns are examined regularly to identify materials that should be added to our local collection due to high demand.  Interlibrary loan service staff search for legal open access options, pay all applicable copyright charges, and use paid document delivery services judiciously to provide requested materials at a sustainable cost. 

Evidence gathered prior to renewal

The library assesses use of both print and electronic resources through a variety of techniques, including use of COUNTER reports (standards for e-resource use issued by the National Information Standards Organization).  An assessment of value is made by looking at the amount of use relative to the cost, and whether or not alternative methods of delivery (e.g., interlibrary loan, open access content) can provide more cost-effective access.  Consideration is given to the size of the Dickinson population being served, so that departments with a small number of faculty and majors are not disadvantaged in access to the essential materials for their disciplines.  Discussions with liaison librarians and faculty take place regarding the decision to discontinue particular subscriptions.  The result has been selective cancellation of lower-use or occasional-use titles so that funds can be applied to acquisition of other materials.

Subscription cost considerations

Annual increases in journal and database costs typically far exceed general inflation, affecting the library’s ability to purchase newly requested materials with a budget that has declined in the past several years.  Between 2016 and 2020, journal subscription prices for academic libraries increased by 24%.  The 2021 Serials Price Projection Report from EBSCO Information Services projects an additional increase of 2 to 3 percent for library subscription prices. These are information industry averages, and in some instances, our subscription price renewals have increased for the coming year by 5% or more. 

The library uses a variety of strategies to contain costs while maintaining access to needed material. These include participation in various library consortia which negotiate more favorable pricing on members' behalf; analyzing use data to identify no-use and low-use subscriptions which may not longer be needed; and shifting to interlibrary loan service access in lieu of full subscriptions.