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Sustainable Access to Scholarship: Overview

This guide outlines how the library will seek to identify a model of access to scholarly content that meets research and instructional needs as well as is fiscally sustainable.

Challenges and Solutions

Guide Updated 11/5/19

Due to years of rent-seeking behavior from publishers, the cost of scholarly journals has outpaced the consumer price index by a factor of four to five. This has brought many institutions to a point of reckoning where the fiscally prudent decision was to separate from so-called "Big Deal" publisher packages. It is no different for the F. Franklin Moon Library at ESF.

With structural-level cuts to funding, the library must make structural adjustments to how it provides access to the scholarly content necessary to fulfill the research and teaching mission of the college. 

  • Over 93% of library OTPS goes to sustaining subscriptions
  • The majority of that is devoted to large packages  -- so called “big deals”
  • When a budget is leveraged like that, and most library budgets are, any cuts put us in a precarious situation as it means significant change in how we access scholarly content.
  • Giving the timing of the budget announcement vs when we process renewals the library is very pressed for time to make what are pivotal decisions in terms of access.

Our goals:

  • Maintain access to core content. We have cut $30k-40k per year from individual subscriptions since 2012, at this point there is nothing left to cut from there.
  • Make secondary content as quickly and easily accessible as possible, and in a cost effective manner.
  • Free up enough money in the budget to support robust fulfillment services for everything else.

Our plan of action:

  • Examine publisher packages as they come due for renewal and or as financial need dictates.
  • Present lists of what we have identified as the most used titles within packages and costs for those packages to the community for feedback
  • If separation is feasible: 
    • Subscribe to core titles
    • Move moderate use titles to “token” access (a means to seamlessly access unsubscribed content at the article level where we purchase campus-wide access for an article for, generally, 24 hours. You are still free to download and keep the article for your own use.)
    • All other access is via fulfillment services (interlibrary loan, document delivery, purchase on demand)

The costs:

  • Some tasks will become much more time intensive for library staff such as:
    • Creating new workflows to purchase content and managing title-level access
    • Managing token access programs
    • Increased volume in fulfillment services. The UC system has seen about a 10% increase YTD.
  • The full fiscal position won’t be known until all is said and done.


  • We are optimistic we can realize some cost reduction, but as this represents a shift away from decades of trends in access we cannot project what those savings might be. Due to the added work of breaking up big packages and managing the various replacement means of access there may be no savings when personnel costs are considered. 
  • It will free us from multi-year, multi-hundred thousand dollar contracts which will allow us greater budget flexibility. 
  • This may allow us to free up enough funds to focus more on one-time-purchase access where we buy perpetual access to collections rather than lease access. This type of investment pays off over time.

Aut viam inveniam aut faciam.


Rent Seeking and Financialization Strategies of the Academic Publishing Industry

ARL Statistics Survey Statistical Trends

Big Deal Cancelation Tracking

Meet with the Director

Small group meetings to identify needs and address concerns. Please RSVP.

Date Time Seats Available
10/24/2019 11:30am-12:30pm 5 / 6
11/5/2019 11:30am-12:30pm 4 / 6
11/7/2019 11am-12pm 4 / 6
11/12/2019 11am-12pm 5 / 6
11/21/2019 11:30am-12:30pm 5 / 6

Other dates and times by appointment.

Location: 102 Moon Library



Matthew R. Smith's picture
Matthew R. Smith
102 Moon Library
Subjects:ESF 200, Research