This morning, I've appreciated reading about SUNY Potsdam library director Jenica P. Rogers' experiences with ACS publications in the Chronicle. Ms. Rogers has eloquently and in some detail described the difficult position for small college libraries providing science content. As prices skyrocket (sometimes 100% or more in a breathtakingly short period of time) and budgets become ever more challenged, the situation becomes urgent.
We at Unity have had similar difficult choices to make. In an environment where faculty and students increasingly demand online full-text, online content providers and journal publishers offer severely regressive terms. The token system is perhaps most inequitable, because in order to get a discount, you must buy in large quantities, and a very small institution cannot do that. Next is the fixed per-title price, which means that a college of 550 students pays the same $4,000 for a journal as a university of 55,000. While fairer pricing can often be negotiated for database bundles, it is a Faustian choice, because there is no guarantee that publishers will continue to participate. We have had more than one situation where we cancelled a subscription for a journal that was included in a database, only to see it disappear shortly thereafter.
Last year, we cancelled four science titles with one publisher that represented almost one-quarter of our entire annual periodicals budget in order to subscribe to a different publisher's database of more than 700 titles. Had it been possible for us to cancel the individual subscriptions with the database provider we might have gotten an even better rate, but they insisted that we continue with our current individual subscriptions--each of which cost more than $1,000--in order to sign up for the database.
Even as I continue to sharpen my street-market-vendor skills in this complex and difficult marketplace, I'll continue to hope that we can somehow re-establish good communication and mutually beneficial relationships with content providers.