Ask A Librarian

Libraries adjusting materials spending in response to budget realities

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
December 3rd, 2018

Student using laptop.

By Karen Diaz, Dean of WVU Libraries

For two years now, West Virginia University Libraries has been working toward bringing our materials spending in line with the new budget realities that we have faced since 2016. One of the biggest challenges in our reduction in funds is managing “bundled” journals subscriptions that historically provided us with more journal title subscriptions at less cost. Unfortunately, over time the inflationary costs of these bundle subscriptions have outpaced the size of our budget.

In 2016, when we were first presented with the need to reduce our spending, bundled journal packages accounted for 30 percent of our materials budget but only provided 6.2 percent of our titles. We recognized at the time that we would have to address this significant portion of our budget to achieve the necessary savings. We did so immediately by unbundling our Wiley subscription package which provided us with about $400,000 in savings at that time. Now we are moving to unbundle the remaining packages.

Remedies, Consequences and Negotiations

Our librarians have spent the last year and a half doing a tremendous amount of analysis on our bundled packages. We have looked at where there is title overlap between different packages we purchase. We have purchased a detailed report that helps us understand which journals our campus researchers are downloading from, publishing in, and citing in their published research. Based on that we have been able to rank in importance the journals for our community in a data driven manner. Our internal collections advisory committee has reviewed and adjusted this work based on extra knowledge gleaned from relationships they have developed with colleges across campus.

One of our journal packages – specifically ScienceDirect with Elsevier – currently takes up 36 percent of our budget but provides only three percent of our titles. Granted, these are high quality titles and many of them are heavily used by the campus community. Still, by taking such a large proportion of our budget, this package has left us with no flexibility to buy monographs on a regular basis, or consider emerging journal or database titles requested by faculty. We have consulted with deans, many department chairs, the Office of Research, and some faculty about this challenge.

After a very lengthy research and negotiation process with Elsevier, we are in the process of finalizing a new contract which unbundles the big package we had. This will mean a loss of new content for some, but not all, of their journal titles. We additionally did a thorough analysis of our usage and spending on the big package we have with Springer and have determined that we will also be unbundling that package. This will allow us to reduce the number of lesser used titles and reduce spending. These changes will take effect on or about January 1, 2019. We have provided complete lists of the Springer and Elsevier titles affected.

Still Delivering Effective Research Support

Because of these changes, the library is reinstating its subscription to SCOPUS (note WVU access will begin before January 1, 2019), a popular scholarly search tool that many lamented the loss of when we cancelled it in 2017. Additionally, the library continues to provide excellent Interlibrary Loan services and we are confident we can supply content that is necessary for the research needs of the campus.  In many cases, journal articles can be supplied within hours of the request. There is never a cost to the researcher or the department for obtaining materials through ILL and we will soon be expanding this service over weekends.

We recognize that these changes may require some new research habits and up-to-date information on the quickest and most cost effective way to get what you need. Our liaison librarians are happy to meet with you by department or individually to ensure you know the latest.

A Shared Reality

It is also important to know that these challenges do not affect WVU alone. SPARC keeps an ongoing watch list of universities that have cancelled journal packages in a nod to the fact that these packages are becoming unsustainable. Many national and international organizations have been pushing back on the high costs that Elsevier, in particular, charges for access to scholarly content.

I am happy to discuss any concerns you might have regarding this decision. You can reach me at or 304-293-0304.

One Response to 'Libraries adjusting materials spending in response to budget realities'

  1. Europe drives push for free science journal access | eats shoots 'n leaves Says:

    […] also jumped on the unbundling bandwagon, with immediate results, as WVU Dean of Libraries Karen Diaz reported on 3 December […]

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