In the spring we held two conversations with faculty who were concerned about changes in our physical collections. We have shared many news items and blog postings over the past several years to outline changes in academic libraries. The graph below captures changes in libraries over the past several years, and some future possibilities:
(You will need to select the image to see the full version.) Image from: The Future of Academic Libraries, an interview with Steven Bell, March 26, 2012.https://www2.educationfutures.com/blog/2012/03/the-future-of-academic-libraries-an-interview-with-steven-j-bell/
This article is six years old, but the progression on the chart for Collections from “just-in-case” to “On demand, anytime” best represents our current model for collections at Macalester. The majority of our acquisitions budget is spent on services and access to electronic information. Our model is access over ownership, to the benefit of our users. We own less now, but we have access to much more content than we’ve had before. Because we no longer “own” the content, we are careful to review licenses to make sure we are able to provide access to materials with as few restrictions as possible. However, access to information is changing, and not necessarily in a good way. Information has always been big business. Many faculty members in the sciences have heard me talk over the years about escalating subscription costs and consolidation of publishers. We continue to see subscription costs rise 7 – 11% every year. The one pressing–and increasing –concern we have is: how much access we can provide with the funding we have available?
One means of combating escalating costs is to decrease paywalls and increase our support for open access initiatives. Consequently, we have put a significant amount of time and effort into promoting open access. As pointed out in a variety of publications and presentations, colleges and universities often pay three times for research:
- Institutions pay authors to conduct research and draft papers, which are then transferred gratis to publishers
- Institutions pay faculty who volunteer their time to peer-review and edit journal submissions, and serve as editors for journals
- Institutions pay publishers for access to the final, published articles, written and edited by our faculty
And I would add a fourth time we pay when we pay article processing charges (APCs) to make an article openly accessible in a commercial journal. We have seen an increase in faculty requests that we pay the APC. While our fund has grown, it is proving to be unsustainable in light of the rising costs of APCs. As a result we will be making changes in our policies and procedures for next year.
Another issue in the increasing costs for information is the fact that we are now also seeing a commercialization of information in a completely different manner. Access to information is changing and the commercialization of information is growing. For example, Monsanto is now the largest producer of agricultural information, not the US government. This concerns me as we know that Monsanto will have proprietary control over crop information, and this will affect access to information scholars may want to look at regarding crop changes and climate changes. More information on this new disturbing trend will be found in our June Collections Newsletter in our article on the Center for Research Library annual meeting. However disturbing this new trend is, it is still rising costs that affect our being able to provide “access on demand.”
Increasing costs and flat budgets are putting even greater pressure on our library budget. In the fall we will be sharing more information about a new initiative we’d like to see faculty supporting. OA2020 is an international initiative to accelerate the move to open access for scholarly journals. We’ll be sharing information with our faculty Library Representatives at our fall meeting, and with our Library Advisory group in the fall as well. Open Access Week this year is October 22 – 28 and the theme is Designing Equitable Foundations for Open Knowledge. We’d like to see our entire community get behind the initiative to break out of traditional dysfunctional patterns of faculty giving their work away for free and libraries having to buy it back at costs that were already spiraling out of control 25 years ago and now have only accelerated. I look forward to meeting with faculty and discussing how Macalester can support this global initiative and contribute to making scholarship open and accessible for our current and future scholars. I’d welcome comments and feedback from you regarding your thoughts on how we can gather campus support for this pressing challenge. I’ll look forward to hearing from you. And you can always drop by my office anytime to share your thoughts.