FY21 Acquisitions Budget Reductions
The global pandemic has impacted budgets across campus, the Commonwealth, and the world. For the Libraries, the immediate need to reduce our budget comes on top of years of inflationary increases by scholarly publishers. Their practices have made it increasingly challenging for libraries and universities worldwide to provide needed resources for our faculty and students.
In order to meet our budget for FY21, the Libraries must reduce the amount we spend on scholarly resources by $445,000. Our annual budget for strategic investments—one-time purchases of e-book collections, databases, and special collections materials—has also been suspended for at least this academic year.
Despite these cost-saving measures, the Libraries remain committed to purchasing information resources most needed by faculty and students within our budgetary constraints, and we value your input as we consider these difficult decisions.
For those resources that we must discontinue, we will make every attempt to provide timely access to alternative resources to support the teaching and research mission of the campus. We are prepared to offer support for a number of options, including resource sharing (e.g., interlibrary loan), document delivery services, Open Access platforms, and more.
Scholarly Publishing Environment
We as an institution are operating in an unsustainable scholarly publishing environment. Despite our longstanding commitment to Open Access, scholarly communication systems continue to prioritize consolidated publisher profit, prestige and control over scholarly works and the platforms that deliver and preserve them. Many researchers, funders, libraries and other allies are developing financial models and infrastructure systems that support a wide variety of peer-reviewed, scholar-controlled works and equitable access to them.
For example, the Big Deal, initially an incentive for libraries to invest in a broad range of scholarly journals, in practice encumbers over 80% of academic libraries’ acquisition budgets. Costs for these packages have risen by 3-9% annually for years, and are expected to increase again in 2021. (See Library Journal's Periodicals Price Survey 2020.) Costs of electronic books are 3 to 4 times that of print, with more access restrictions.
Even with modest cost-of-inflation increases to acquisition budgets, libraries cannot both maintain these agreements and support more diverse scholarship ecosystems. Now with financial hardship and budget reductions induced by the pandemic, the Libraries are hamstrung in our ability to invest intentionally in alternatives to limited, for-profit publisher systems.
UMass Amherst is not alone in its struggle with these inequities. The SPARC Big Deal Cancellation Tracking project documents libraries’ efforts across the globe to extricate themselves from expensive and restrictive licensing agreements. We encourage you to explore how others have pushed back, and assure you that as we move through this current budget reduction, we are also looking ahead to implementing principle-based practices that will help us to reclaim control over our investments while we partner with you to build the infrastructures that support the works you produce, as well as improve access to and use of a wide variety of scholarship.
Department liaison librarians carefully and thoughtfully reviewed lists of materials for possible cancellation using different criteria for each format type:
- Databases: Content overlap with other resources, low usage, cost per use
- E-journals: Cost per use (# of articles requested divided by the cost of the journal). We still have access to these titles via aggregator databases and Google Scholar. E-journals with a cost per use higher than what we would pay to receive the articles via interlibrary loan are the titles proposed for cancellation.
- Print Journals and Serials: Electronic availability in our databases, low usage. The majority of these items have had no usage since January 2019 and are available electronically through our databases or available open access.
Faculty and graduate students were invited to provide feedback by Oct. 3. That feedback was reviewed and a final list of 795 databases and journals will be cancelled for 2021.
Associate Dean for Content and Discovery
UMass Amherst Libraries