Change is rapid and constant, except in changing scholarly communication

In the June blog posting, I talked about how our collections have changed and will continue to change. Increasing costs is one of the constants we experience and I shared our hope that faculty will become more engaged in supporting our efforts to increase open access to scholarly publications. Increasing costs are not new.  Over twenty years ago, in “Issues in Scholarly Communication I: The Looming Crisis”, authors Professor David Bressoud, DeWitt Wallace Professor of Mathematics and Joel Clemmer, former VP for Library and Information Technology, wrote:

“…the electronic age is bringing both unprecedented opportunities and great dangers…Commercial ventures are moving rapidly into this field and shaping it to fit their needs.  As scholars and as educators, we have a responsibility to help determine the future of scholarly communication…”

This excerpt  is taken from the first in a series of three articles written in 1995 and published in the Colloquy.  

The  Colloquy was an irregular campus print publication that started in 1982 as a newsletter for the Bush Program for faculty development.  The last published issue was October 2003. During its run, the publication included essays and commentaries by faculty and (sometimes) staff. In 1995, a series of three articles were co-written by Joel Clemmer David Bressoud on scholarly communication.  The articles were: I – “The Looming Crisis”; II – “The Looming Opportunities”; III – “The Looming Responsibilities.” This series focused on the scholarly crisis that had been developing, but was then accelerating due to two factors: expansion of information as well as increasing costs. The authors outlined the following as part of their background information:

  • Increase in number of published math papers
    • 1840 – 840 math papers
    • 1960 – 7,800 math papers
    • 1990 – over 50,000 math papers
  • Increase in costs of databases in the library over 10 years
    • 1984 – $1,700
    • 1994 – $66,500

At the time of the Colloquy articles, two national digital projects had just launched:  Project Muse, with the intent to digitize 44 traditionally print journals; and JSTOR, with the intent to digitize the backfiles of journals. The concept of JSTOR was based on a proposal  by William Bowen, at the time president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

“…[T]o help university and college libraries provide adequate space for an ever-increasing amount of published scholarship. Bowen’s solution: convert printed scholarly journals into electronic form and store them in a centralized digital archive. Participating libraries and their institutions could free physical space, reduce capital and other costs associated with collection storage, and vastly improve access to scholarly research.”

Now, JSTOR provides access to over twelve million academic journal articles and Project Muse has expanded to over 600 journals and more than 50,000 books. Note that our current costs for databases is considerably more than $66,500 per year and in fact, one database now currently costs us $47,000 annually.  There is no question that JSTOR has expanded access to journal articles, but it has also come at a cost. At the time these articles were written, the authors optimistically stated in the conclusion of their first article: “This is our opportunity to shape the future.”

The reality is that 23 years later, we are still trying to shape the future and commercial interests are still trying to shape the scholarly publishing landscape.  As a result, we continue to see an exponential increase in the number of publications, and costs continue to rise at an annual rate of 7-11% for journal subscriptions. Every year we have requests from faculty to increase our journal subscriptions. And every year we have to explain that to add one, they need to drop one or two of equal value in order for our subscriptions to remain steady state.  Meanwhile, as mentioned in my last post, faculty submit articles for publication without being paid, yet academic libraries have to pay in order to provide access to these articles given away for free. Unfortunately, these costs are increasing beyond the ability of our budget to keep up, and most academic libraries are in the same position. There are, however, options for scholars to access a version of a published article that may be behind a paywall. And I’m not talking about using Sci-Hub. The options I am referring to include placing articles on dedicated preprint servers, or depositing post-print versions in institutional repositories. Many more publishers are allowing these options for authors.

These changes have been partially a result of an increased demand for providing open access options, along with an increasing number of institutions that have open access mandates–policies that require faculty to provide a copy of accepted, peer-review articles to be made openly available to all through their institutional repository. Internationally, there are more than 700 institutions with such a mandate including some of our peers–Amherst, Grinnell, Middlebury, Smith, and Trinity University, among others. Simultaneously, we have seen an increase in the number of subject specific preprint and postprint servers for posting a version of articles accepted for publication.

Faculty in the sciences, especially physics, have long had the preprint server Launched in 1991, it now provides: “Open access to 1,411,323 e-prints in Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Quantitative Biology, Quantitative Finance, Statistics, Electrical Engineering and Systems Science, and Economics.”  Preprint servers exist for the purpose of sharing manuscripts that have been peer-reviewed, but are waiting to be published.  As the lag time from when an article is accepted to the actual publication date can be quite lengthy, many scholars turn to preprint servers to find relevant and timely articles. One of the largest organizations for preprint serves is the Open Science Framework.  The following is a list of preprint servers, with those in italics hosted on OSF at


As a result of these activities, we are now seeing a number of commercial publishers who are allowing faculty to archive preprints, postprints, and sometimes the final printed version of articles on personal websites and in institutional repositories.  Sherpa Romeo is a website that allows faculty to check for policies on what is possible with articles that have been accepted for publication.  As an example, here is a screenshot showing the possibilities for one journal title:

screen shot of Sherpa/Romeo page


In conclusion, faculty have options when it comes to publishing and sharing their research, scholarship, and creative works. While the promotion and tenure process often limits where you may publish, publishers themselves have started to allow more options for providing access to a version of your scholarship.  For twenty-three plus years, we have advocated for author rights and tried to move faculty into a more open publishing environment. We are hoping to engage with faculty to encourage them to join in the effort to move even more scholarship into completely open access publications. This is just one means of addressing the effects of increasing costs on a limited budget. We can only provide access to a fraction of the resources that are behind paywalls. But thanks in part to an ever-quickening pace for conducting research and publishing results, more faculty are taking advantage of open access options to distribute and disseminate their research, and thus expanding the reach of their research. This is the goal of OA2020, “a global alliance committed to accelerating the transition to open access.”  We’ve been in crisis mode long enough. It is time to make a commitment to change and to supporting the OA2020 initiative.


My informal signature

Library Collections: how they are changing and will continue to change, and why we need your help

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:

chart of how libraries are changing


(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.

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.

My informal signature

Realizing a Vision

Last month I wrote about “Our Community as Creators.”  Continuing on that theme, I want to address some comments that have been made regarding our summer project for Level 2 of the library.  This project will result in realizing many aspects of a vision we shared four years ago.  Vision 2020 was written when we were celebrating the 25th anniversary of the DeWitt Wallace Library.  Now, four years later, it is especially helpful in connecting current students, faculty, and staff to our aspirations for the library spaces.

“Our vision for the Dewitt Wallace Library of 2020 is to expand and build up our current  vibrant and active space for engaging scholars.  We want a library that contributes to the transformative experience for all students as well as a space that will attract faculty to utilize our space, resources, and expertise…[a] primary emphasis for the library of 2020 will continue to be on the services we provide to support the scholarship of faculty and students.” [Vision 2020, p. 1]

Our vision for the DeWitt Wallace Library of 2020 has always been about scholarship, teaching, and learning.  However, we also envisioned a change as a result of providing access to more electronic content and fewer print, hard-copy materials.  In our vision, we outlined a plan for managing our print collection in order to allow us to do more with the spaces we have.  In that document, we focused on what we would like to see in our spaces with seven potential developments:

  • Content Creation Labs
  • More Comfortable Quiet Reading Spaces
  • More Comfortable Collaborative Working Spaces
  • Classroom 2020 Learning Lab
  • Special Collections – Expanding access and space
  • Media Collections Consolidated
  • Expanded Hours Study Space

Many recent comments I have received have focused on our “gutting the library” or turning the entire second floor into space for Entrepreneurship.  Neither is true, but the partnership with Kate Ryan Reiling, Entrepreneur in Residence, is one that we actively sought because we saw that many aspects of our vision for spaces meshed well with goals that Kate has.  It is especially the “Content Creation Labs” that have a close affinity to the work being done with Entrepreneurship and that is why we believe it is a good fit for the programs the library staff hope to provide in new spaces.  The entire first five items listed in our vision will be addressed in some manner in our project for the second level.  That alone is one reason why those of us in the library who had a shared vision for our spaces by 2020 are delighted to have this opportunity.

Our vision for Special Collections was written before Media Services moved into the lower level of the library, so that portion of the vision has changed.  However, we did envision more space for teaching and working with students with rare books and archival materials.  That is another aspect of the plans that I am thrilled to see will be realized by the end of the summer, connected to existing Rare Books and Archives spaces.  We’re already talking about the various programs we will be able to offer in that space in addition to working with classes in the fine arts, humanities, and social sciences.

The planning team for this project includes two student representatives, a faculty representative, and campus leadership.  The full planning team:

  • David Wheaton, VP Administration and Finance
  • Karine Moe, Provost
  • Kate Reiling, Entrepreneur in Residence
  • Angi Faiks, Associate Library Director
  • Jody Emmings, Entrepreneurship Coordinator
  • Terri Fishel, Library Director
  • Nathan Lief, Director of Facilities
  • Matthew Meyer, Associate Director of Facilities
  • Donna Lee, VP Student Affairs
  • Ted Wilder, Associate Director of ITS
  • Chris Wells (faculty rep)
  • Remy Eisendrath (student rep)
  • Sam Greenstein (student rep, library student employee)

There have been stories  in the MacWeekly, a number of listening sessions in the library, and three of the four sessions to discuss the future of the library, with one more session remaining.  In addition, we are holding a session during National Library Week to discuss the draft floor plans.

One aspect of working in academic libraries that I continue to enjoy is the opportunity to work with a younger population who are learning and often embracing new ideas.  As I shared with a colleague recently, the aspect of work that I enjoy most is contributing to the process of opening minds to new ideas and seeing possibilities rather than barriers.  Currently, I continue to respond to messages from individuals who are seeing more barriers than possibilities in our summer project.  However, I am very excited to see our long-held vision become reality during the summer and I want to share more details with the entire community.  As we stressed, and will continue to emphasize, books are at the heart of what we do and will always be so.  Books are never going away.  What is changing is the opportunity to provide spaces that enable creation in all forms, allowing our community members to create with their hands as well as their minds, contributing to new scholarship, new ideas, new solutions, new experiences, and new creations.  We are excited by the possibilities and I invite anyone who wants to know more to join David Wheaton, Angi Faiks, and me on Thursday, April 13th at noon in the Harmon Room.  We will share the current draft of the floor plan and will provide a general overview of the spaces and areas that are being developed.  It is my hope that more minds will be opened to the possibilities that we are creating and that more people will share our excitement about this fabulous opportunity.  I hope you will join us in conversation next week.  And lest I forget, food will be provided.  I look forward to seeing you there.

Attached is a draft of the remodel plan that we will be discussing next Thursday.  20170405_Macalester Library In Progress Plan_

Our Community as Creators

Last month I reported on the first discussion we had regarding planning the future of the library.  We’ve now had two conversations, including a great discussion about spaces in the library.  Last week, a new report came out that is particularly relevant to these discussions. The New Media Center Horizon Report 2017 Library Edition was released during the ACRL (Association of College and Research Libraries)  2017 biennial meeting in Baltimore that ended Saturday, March 25th.  The Horizon Report provides a guide to what is on the horizon for the next five years for academic and research libraries, broken down into “six key trends, six significant challenges, and six developments in technology.”  One of the key trends is “Patrons as Creators” and is seen as a driving force for the next three to five years.  This is a trend our librarians have actively been involved in for some time as we have emphasized our role in helping our community members create content rather than just consume.  This has informed our work with open access, information literacy, our institutional repository that allows us to showcase works and journals produced by our students, and our more recent efforts to create more welcoming spaces in the library that would allow students to do more with their hands as well as with their minds.


The Horizon Report mentions a recent survey of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL)  “revealed that 64% of responding libraries in North America are engaged in providing, planning, or piloting makerspace services.” [p.14] The increase in makerspaces in academic libraries, mirrors the growth in public libraries as well.  This growth is partially a response to what is seen as a social movement, but it also integrates with the services all types of libraries offer.  For us, a makerspace meshes well with our academic programs that increasingly emphasize the interdisciplinary connections between various disciplines.   It also is timely in terms of the growing interest in the Digital Liberal Arts on our campus.  The Horizon Report helps articulate some of the concepts we have been focused on as we prepare for creating new spaces on the second level of the library.  We have been exploring makerspaces in the library for several years, but it was just this year in January that an opportunity presented itself to help us develop such spaces for innovation and creation.  As with many of the things we do, this is very much a collaborative effort.
This new initiative involves many different pieces, including space for innovation in teaching, more group work spaces, spaces for crafts as well as coding, and also an opportunity to collaborate with entrepreneurship on campus. We see this as an opportunity to help us expand services for students and also create new spaces to foster creativity and innovation.  At the same time, the book remains central to what we are as a library.  The Children’s collection and the Rare Books Room will remain on level 2, while the books currently on level 2 stacks will move upstairs one level, or downstairs to the lower level depending on size and content.  If you want to know more or participate in conversations, we have more sessions scheduled in the coming weeks.  You can read more about our plan and open discussions on our library web page as well as on our LibGuide Planning the Future of the Library.  You may contribute your thoughts on a feedback form, but I think most of our community members will benefit by coming and discussing in person how this new initiative will provide them with new spaces to become creators, not just consumers.