Library moves to online-only periodicals

Responding to budget pressures, shifting use

December 19, 2012 | Amid tight budgets and an evolving publication landscape, the NCAR Library has been reviewing its collection of journal subscriptions, moving to online-only access and eliminating titles with limited use. The changes will be effective January 1.

Each year the library analyzes journal subscriptions with an eye toward identifying those titles that are most used and most relevant to UCAR and NCAR activities. Though the library’s budget has been relatively flat or slightly reduced for a number of years, a steeper cut for fiscal year 2013 prompted the cancellation of a significant number of  journal titles. While several online services were also dropped this autumn, most were retained.

Mary Marlino
Mary Marlino. (©UCAR, Photo by Carlye Calvin.)

Maintaining access to scholarship

The library staff underwent a very thorough process in determining which journals will be discontinued, according to director Mary Marlino. Usage data, cost per download, the scope and impact factor of each journal, and the number of UCAR-authored papers within each journal were all considered. The library is shifting from a “just in case” collection policy to a philosophy of “just in time” service delivery, says Mary, with more reliance on interlibrary loan as necessary.

“We have to operate within our means,” she says. “However, I am extremely hopeful that we can do this without undue delays in getting people the resources they need.” 

The most heavily used journal subscriptions will be retained and will be accessible online. An FAQ on the library website details the rationale for the culling process; it also links to Excel files that show the full lists of subscriptions and services canceled (get file) and retained (get file).

Some of the canceled titles may have had only one or a few uses per year while costing thousands of dollars, notes Mary. She emphasizes that the library is maintaining its commitment to provide the scholarship that NCAR & UCAR staff require. “If you want that obscure journal, we’ll be able to get it for you through interlibrary loan,” she says. “It will take a bit longer than before, but we are committed to making this service as painless as possible for our users.”

The shelves for current periodicals at the FL and ML libraries are being removed this month. Bound volumes of archived print journals will remain, says Mary, and users will still have access to online content for all years during which the library subscribed to a now-discontinued journal. Some of the canceled journals are also available through open access (see the FAQ for relevant lists.)

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In-house publications move online

In sync with the NCAR Library’s shift to online-only journal subscriptions, NCAR & UCAR Communications has also moved toward digital publication. At the beginning of 2012, Staff Notes evolved from a bimonthly internal print newsletter to an online-only Staff News service, which complements the announcements and other items in Staff Notes Daily.

Likewise, the AtmosNews print magazine—which covered research and related activity for both internal and external readers—recently published its final issue. All content is now produced and published on the AtmosNews website, which includes blog-style posts, news releases, research briefs, and other timely material.

“We are seeing fundamental changes in the way people access news and information online,” notes communications director Matt Hirschland. “At the same time, given sustainability concerns and the current budgetary constraints, the costs of print publication are becoming increasingly difficult to justify.”

To keep tabs on the latest internal and community stories in Staff News and AtmosNews, watch for news alerts in Staff Notes Daily. You can also follow AtmosNews on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.

Prefer email? Subscribe to the AtmosNews digest, which aggregates new articles about every 1–3 weeks.

Readers can find their way to material from our past print publications, including scanned PDF copies of Staff Notes dating back to 1966, at the News Archive site.

A growing trend

“The NCAR Library is not alone,” says Mary. “This is happening with libraries all over, including Harvard.” A memorandum issued by the Harvard Library in April noted that the university was spending more than $3.7 million per year on subscriptions, with some titles costing up to $40,000 per year. The costs for some online journals and services have increased by as much as 145% in the last six years, according to the memo. The NCAR Library is facing similar price increases.

On a more positive note, a growing amount of scholarship is available through open access (OA) journals. Some federal agencies are requiring open access to research resulting from federal funding. As a result, universities and other research organizations are encouraging researchers to publish in OA journals. The NCAR Library’s OpenSky repository provides free access to a wide range of journal articles and other materials generated by UCAR, NCAR, and UCP scholarship. The library has also negotiated OA agreements with specific publishers. One of these is with Springer, which allows scientists to choose an Open Choice option at the time of publication.

Before finalizing their decisions, library staff consulted with the UCAR President’s Council, the Library Advisory Board, the NCAR Executive Committee, and the executive committee of the NCAR Scientists Assembly. “They all agreed that the cancellations were regrettable but necessary, given the current budget situation,” says Mary.

If you have any questions, contact Mary, ext. 8350.