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Scholarly Communication

Drake Librarian Selected as SPARC Open Education Leadership Fellow

Drake Librarian Selected as SPARC Open Education Leadership Fellow

Teri Koch, Collection Development Coordinator & Professor of Librarianship at Cowles Library, has been selected as a fellow in the SPARC Open Education Leadership Program, a two-semester intensive professional development program to build a comprehensive understanding of the open education space coupled with practical know-how to lead successful open education initiatives that benefit students, especially Open Educational Resources (OER). Teri is one of 27 fellows selected from a competitive application pool for the program’s 2019-2020 cohort.

Cowles Library Dean, Gillian Gremmels says: “Cowles Library is committed to supporting and expanding open education on campus. We are proud that Teri has been selected for this program, and believe that her work will benefit students at Drake.”

About her participation, Teri says: “My goal for participating in the SPARC Open Education Leadership Program is to enhance my own knowledge about OER practices and pedagogies so that I can become a more effective advocate for open education at Drake. I’d like to learn who is currently utilizing OER in their classes, who would like to do so, and what barriers they face. I am working to expand awareness and create training opportunities for those wishing to explore either the adoption or creation of OER.” To help her understand the current status of OER at Drake, Teri is asking faculty who are using or are considering using OER in their courses to fill out a short form

In recent years, librarians at Cowles Library have worked to make textbook access more affordable for students in the following ways: 

  • Presented about textbook alternatives at the 2014 & 2015 Drake Learning Symposium to encourage faculty to adopt materials already licensed via the library as textbook alternatives
  • Created a research guide to help provide information to faculty looking to adopt and/or create open access textbooks
  • Worked with individual faculty to find electronic versions of textbooks appropriate for use in their courses.
  • Worked with Drake Online Programs to provide unlimited-use electronic textbooks to online learners whenever they are available.. 
  • Over the past several years, purchased more than 70,000 eBooks on the SpringerLink platform. These eBooks can be downloaded in full as PDF files at no charge, and most titles offer the option to purchase a softcover printed version for $24.99.

“Academic libraries sit at the intersection of faculty, students, and high-quality resources, and therefore are essential partners in advancing open education on campus,” said Nicole Allen, Director of Open Education for SPARC. “A large part of what makes our program successful is the unique and valuable perspective each participant brings to it, and a vibrant community of practice develops amongst the cohort. We are proud to have Teri among our 2019-2020 class.”

Cowles Library is a member of SPARC, which is a global coalition dedicated to making Open the default in research and education.

Issues in Scholarly Communication: Is Elsevier’s “Big Deal” a good deal for Drake?

By Rod Henshaw, Teri Koch and Laura Krossner.

This is the first of several postings that will address the significant developments within scholarly publishing and communication.  Our purpose with these blog posts is threefold: 1) identity the major recent developments; 2) examine how do these relate to our collections and services, and 3) identify emerging scholarly publishing trends, especially emerging alternative constructs to the current system. We invite feedback and dialogue!

There are a couple of macro-factors to consider as we go forward.  First is the reality that the rate of change is speeding up.   In science fiction there is a term—the singularity—in which the pace of technological change rapidly accelerates (with both positive and negative consequences).  We are approaching, if we haven’t already entered into, an analogous situation with scholarly publishing. Second, within any fluid change environment, there will be a variety of factors to consider.  The number of players in the scholarly publishing environment is large, including, but not limited to: the research processes, faculty needs, publishers, scholarly societies, libraries, technology, governmental policy, open access, and the current financial climate for higher education.  These various players are going to be in different states of evolution, responding as needed with their individual service needs and business models. One of the primary challenges as this change goes forward is making the best decisions for service at any given time. 

For this first blog we want to address The Big Deal and why it’s getting to be an even bigger deal.  And what approach we are taking for the time being.

Most of you are aware that the University of California system recently declined to renew their big package deal with Elsevier.  https://www.chronicle.com/article/U-of-California-System/245798

This development has garnered a lot of press coverage beyond the library field and on into the academic and general press at large.  This UC decision has led to strong support – with support statements coming from other institutions – including Iowa State. https://www.insidehighered.com/print/news/2019/03/27/librarians-prepare-take-harder-line-publishers

Clearly, the UC action has emboldened other major systems and institutions to review their current deals, to take a harder line with negotiations, and to potentially not review package contracts.  Here is a summary from SPARC regarding Big Deal activities: https://sparcopen.org/our-work/big-deal-cancellation-tracking/

Below we review our current approach – especially with Elsevier, and why for the time being this approach makes the best sense for us – recognizing that this may change drastically when the contract is up for renewal.

First of all, you may ask what is a “Big Deal”? Why would a library subscribe to one? A Big Deal in the sense of libraries is where an institution subscribes to a large package of journals in a publisher’s collection, often at a substantial discount off the individual list price, rather than subscribing to only the titles the institution really wants/uses.  It is usually a better deal to get the whole package than it is to subscribe to needed titles individually. Libraries can offer access to more titles, and publishers can get their lesser-used titles into the subscription package in order to boost their subscription numbers.  Think of it like your cable package. You may only want CNN and ESPN, but you end up with a bunch of other channels that you may not really want or use.  

One of the most important functions of the library is to provide access to the learning resources needed by Drake students, faculty, and staff. Obviously, with budget constraints, we cannot provide subscription access to all needed and desired content. Therefore, we aim to try to provide access to the most used resources in the most cost-effective manner possible. In recent years, this has entailed the library “breaking-up” most of the Big Deal packages offered by vendors, and instead subscribing to the most-used journal titles on an individual basis. We then purchase individual articles on an “as needed” basis through a document delivery vendor, primarily GetItNow. The cost is usually in the vicinity of $24-48 per article. This model makes sense as long as the cost of articles purchased as needed does not exceed the cost of the subscription.

Up until recently, for the vendor Elsevier, this model made the most sense. We subscribed to approximately $24,000 of Elsevier journals, and we let users download additional content on an as-needed basis via GetItNow, which the library then pays for on a monthly basis. What has changed in recent years is the skyrocketing use of GetItNow, and the library’s associated costs.

Beginning FY18, our document delivery costs began to grow each month as more patrons were downloading Elsevier articles for their research.  This was problematic for numerous reasons: first, we had already budgeted a certain amount for expected document delivery costs, and suddenly we were in the red on that budget line.  We had to scramble to come up with the funds to pay for these invoices by cutting into the book budget and staff development budget.  Second, it also became impossible to predict the cost of the monthly GetItNow invoice. This lack of budget certainty was a huge problem.  Finally, it no longer made fiscal sense to rely on document delivery.  The yearly cost of Elsevier’s Big Deal package (called the Freedom Collection) ended up being less than what we were paying buying content per article via GetItNow.

Via careful contract negotiation, Cowles Library was able to obtain favorable contract terms for the Elsevier Freedom Collection.  We signed a 5-year contract with capped inflation rates, which also includes a “budget-out” clause.  This means if our budget situation becomes so dire we are unable to pay our contracted invoice amount, we can get out of the contract with no penalties.  We also managed to negotiate access to expanded backfiles: a standard Freedom Collection offers the current year of a journal’s content plus a 4-year rolling backfile (for instance, this year we’d have access to 2019 and the 4 previous years, 2015-2018; next year, we’d have access to 2020 and 2016-2019, etc.).  Our collection gives us 1995-present content, with no rolling backfile.  Each year that we continue to pay for Elsevier content, we maintain our holdings access back to 1995.

Finally, our contract ended up costing us less than had anticipated.  It is our most expensive single resource expense (north of $100,000), but the amount of content we get access to (over 2300 journals and 23,000 books), plus now having predictable budget lines and the ability to pay less for the same content we were getting before, makes this instance of a Big Deal a great value for Drake University.

Below are the most requested GetItNow journals now included in our Freedom Collection subscription:

  • Social Science & Medicine
  • Computers in Human Behavior
  • Research in Developmental Disabilities
  • The Leadership Quarterly
  • Drug and Alcohol Dependence
  • Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology
  • Psychiatry Research

In future posts we plan to address some of the other major developments in scholarly communication, and how they may impact us. Please feel free to provide feedback.

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