Journal Prices and Your Library

Soon after MLA’s Ad Hoc Committee for Advocating Scholarly Communications published the list of various journal publishers who have frozen or dropped the price of their 2010 subscriptions, a discussion sprouted on the liblicense email list about whether that list or other publishers’ pricing breaks during this economy would influence whether they kept a journal.  Also discussed were the 2010 prices for Springer and Elsevier titles some of increased by 5% while others increased by 25%.  Basically the discussions centered around the impact of price on librarian’s decision to keep or dump a journal. 

Scott Plutchak summed it up nicely on his blog, it is not a matter of value and whether librarians or publishers believe a publication is worth a certain amount but is a matter of how much money you have.  

Scott’s phone conversation with Elsevier rep on value of their collection:

“If  Lynn and I go down to Jim & Nick’s for dinner, we might spend $50 and have a really good meal.  If we go to Hot n’ Hot, I might spend $200 for an exceptional experience.  I might feel that the $200 actually represents a better value overall, but if all I’ve got to spend on dinner is $20, the comparison is irrelevant.   The point is, I’m just not willing to spend what you’re asking, no matter how valuable you tell me the content is.”

As we all are looking at our budgets and trying to figure out what journals to keep and what to drop while working with a finite amount of money.  There will be casualties.  Some journals are easy to cut, these are the ones that have gotten little to no usage.  I am also starting to see more of the sacred cow type of journals falling more and more into the cut category.  At one point in time librarians used to think they couldn’t cut a certain journal because it was deemed to be too important/valuable.  That feeling is out the window.  I am in the middle of helping another librarian out with her journal cuts this year.  She selected some very big titles for the chopping blog, such as Lancet.  The reason, nobody was using them and they would save over $21,000 if they dropped them.   Let me just state, this library is a heavily used library that also has electronic journals.  If nobody is using the journal there is a reason and it is not because the library is antiquated and unused, because other titles are being used heavily. 

So, the little used journals are getting cut regardless of their perceived value, but what about those journals on the cusp?  For those journals, does it matter whether their publisher is on the price freeze list?  Even if you have the money, for all of your cusp journals does future pricing mean that much that you would cut a cusper whose publisher isn’t on that list?

I think we are in the midst of some very interesting times.  I understand that for profit companies owe it to their share holders and employees to make a profit, but you can’t expect to go into this kind of economical market with a 25% price increase either. In the end it will be us who help determine the future of journal pricing.  Unfortunately we haven’t been very good our price “negotiations” so far.  As Scott said ” The major commercial publishers have done a very good job of betting that when push comes to shove, librarians will always come around, no matter how much they fuss.”

What do the 2010 journal prices mean for your library and how will you negotiate it with the budget?

PubMed Redesign Summary

The PubMed redesign online meeting was very popular.  Max Anderson has a very nice summary on The Cornflower.  It includes links to the video, Power Point slides, and the NLM Technical Bulletin.

Don’t forget the Western half of the country’s session will be on August 11, 2009 11:30 – Noon Pacific time (12:30 – 1:00 Mountain, 10:30 – 11 Alaska).  There will be a reminder to the HLIB-NW listserv on August 10th about the presentation and we look forward to seeing you there! Go to Dragonfly for more information.

PubMed Redesign Meeting

I sat in on the PubMed Redesign online meeting today.  If you weren’t able to sit in on the session or had audio difficulties they recorded and it will be  is available to view.

David went through the slides that he showed at the MLA conference in May.  Details are in the June 2009 issue of the NLM Technical Bulletin.  The changes to PubMed will probably happen sometime mid September and they hope to have a 2 week preview before things really go official. 

David covered a lot of information in his slides and there were a lot of good questions after his presentation.  I tried taking notes as we went along but there was so much information and so many good questions that I will have to view the video again.

But this is what I have learned and remembered so far:

  • Advanced Search page will not be change
  • Citation Matcher will stay but will only be available from Home Page and Advance Search
  • My NCBI might change names to Preferences
  • Library icons will/should display in right hand corner with rest of full text icons
  • Details will only be available from Advanced Search :(

From the chat box it seems that there are many librarians who want Details to be available on many/all screens not just Advance Search.  They also want the option to link to the Advance Search directly instead of the PubMed home page.  Since most of the “cool” or helpful things like Details, History, Citation Matcher are only available from the Advanced Search, many people may want to have a nice short cut straight to that area. 

Once the link to the recording for the is up I will post it.  The recording can be found at

I also plan to post the link for the West Coast session as well.  I think watching the two sessions will be helpful because different important questions might be asked at each of those sessions.

Don’t Forget PubMed Re-Design Online Meeting

At the 2008 Annual MLA Meeting, the NLM Online Users’ Meeting  had a preview of the upcoming PubMed redesign. Tomorrow (August 8th  5th), David Gillikin, Chief of NLM’s Bibliographic Services will once again provide a preview for anyone who did not get to attend the user meeting in Honolulu. David will present a brief web-based update on PubMed interface changes and will review the draft design for the new search results page and abstract view presented at MLA.  

To join the meeting:

When:  08/05/2009 2:00 PM (EST), 1:00 pm (CST)

Sign in as a Guest with your first and last name.

After joining the meeting, you can let the system call you for the  audio. If you need to manually dial into the meeting: Dial-In:  1-866-846-3997 Pass-Code: 974772

 This session will be recorded for those unable to attend.

If you have never attended a Connect Pro meeting before:

Test your connection:

For those of you living in the Western half of the country it will be on August 11, 2009 11:30 – Noon Pacific time (12:30 – 1:00 Mountain, 10:30 – 11 Alaska).  There will be a reminder to the HLIB-NW listserv on August 10th about the presentation and we look forward to seeing you there! Go to Dragonfly for more information.

The PubMed changes and redesign drew quite few reactions from the MEDLIB-l community (especially the Citation Matcher issue) so it important for everyone (even you die hard Ovid users) to attend.  Changes may impact you or users in ways you never thought about.  I encourage you to pass this along to your colleagues who might not be subscribed to the listservs or who aren’t big blog readers (feel free to cut and paste this post in an email).

Elsevier’s Reaction to the Libraries and the Economy

Roy Jakobs, Director Academic and Government Sales and Marketing, wrote Supporting Libraries in a Challenging Economy discussing how the current economic crisis affecting academic and government institutions is also affecting Elsevier.  It has an impact on libraries and institutions world wide.  “One thing for certain is that these are unique and challenging times for both our customers and Elsevier.” 

Elsevier has decided to do two main things to help customers through the economic crisis. 

1. They are doing moderate price increases for 2010.  Some journal subscriptions will decrease in cost while other will increase. 

2. Elsevier will work with institutions individually “to find solutions for academic customers whose budgets are suffering from the current economic crisis.”

(This piece was written by the Director Academic and Government Sales and Marketing, so hospitals were not mentioned.  One hopes the two things he mentions will be also instituted to hospital customers as well.)

I know some of you are already rolling your eyes about idea of Elsevier “helping” libraries.  Well yeah, be skeptical, I didn’t say they were going to be giving us money.  For each institution the proof will be in the pudding.   However, what I find interesting about this statement is that it allows us to hear what one for profit library vendor is doing in this economy with its products and customers.  In previous posts I have linked to MLA’s Ad Hoc Committee for Advocating Scholarly Communications list with the various journal publishers who have frozen or dropped the price of their 2010 subscriptions.  One person commented on Facebook or Twitter (I can’t remember) that the list contained mainly society publishers and non profit publishers.  Well unfortunately that is probably going to be the case with most of these types of lists.  While I certainly don’t agree with every for profit company’s decisions, we have to remember that many of them like Elsevier, Wolters Kluwer etc. are beholden to their share holders first (if they are a publicly held company).  That is business.  That sometimes irks us a librarians because we don’t always like to think of profit and business and libraries.  It seems to get in the way of our mantra of providing information to the public.  My brother, a venture capitalist, and I have had many debates over a few cold beers about these sorts of things. 

These companies have not only the economy to deal with but they also have to make a profit selling to non profit entities, not always an easy nor favorably viewed job.  I know of several companies (I am not thinking of library related companies) that really don’t want to sell to non profits, or they certainly don’t pursue non profit companies as clients. 

So while we librarians might disagree with many of the decisions some our for profit resources providers have made recently and in the past, expecting them to behave (price and negotiate) like a non profit or a society publisher is not realistic.  I am one of the first people to complain about a company(ies) questionable pricing (especially if it seems like gouging) and unfair usage restrictions, but I also have to remind myself that not everyone is going to be able to bite the economic bullet as much as others.  Don’t forget there were quite a few society and non profit publishers who weren’t on that list too.

What I think would be helpful is if there were more statements or press releases like this from other companies (for profit and non profit) stating their direction and how they intend to handle this economic crisis within their company and with their customers.  Maybe I am weird but I want to know what other companies are doing in this economy, how will my budget be affected, what can I expect in general from Company X.  Of course not only do they need to make a statement, they should stick to their message.  A company stating they will only raise prices 5% yet actually raise them 125% won’t help me with my budget planning and they will be the first thing I look to cut as soon as possible.

MLA Annual Meeting Blog Survey Results

At this year’s annual meeting we had a great group of bloggers who wrote on various topics during the annual meeting.  I was able to meet some of them in person (we were all very busy) and I think I can speak for all of them in saying that we really wanted to do our best to keep the membership informed of events and information at MLA. 

In an attempt to analyze success of the blog and bloggers, I conducted two surveys.  One survey was just for the bloggers themselves to determine what strategies, platforms, etc worked best.  The results of that blog will be passed on to the 2010 NPC group to help with their blog.  The second survey was for everyone who read the annual meeting blog and its intent was to help us see whether our posts were helpful and whether a blog was a good information resource for the annual meeting.

Here are the results of the second survey:

  • 70 people responded to the survey, 39 of the respondents did not attend the annual meeting while 31 did.  Not everyone responded to every question.
  • Most (34) people visited the blog once a day.  There was little difference between non-attendees and attendees as to how many times they accessed the blog. 
    • 17 non-attendees and 17 attendees reported viewing the blog once a day.
    • 9 non attendees and 7 attendees reported viewing the blog multiple times a day.
    • 4 non attendees and 2 attendees reported viewing the blog twice a day.
  • 39 respondents thought the blog “covered the various programs, sessions and meeting events” well or extremely well.  17 respondents thought the blog covered the annual meeting fairly well, while 5 people thought the blog poorly covered the annual meeting.

People were asked “What did you like best about the blog?”  Below are sample comments from those who thought the blog covered the annual meeting events well & extremely well, fairly well, and poorly. 

Sample comments from those that thought the blog covered the annual meeting well or extremely well:

“Personal takes on aspects of the meeting: venue, exhibits, speakers, sessions. Especially liked it when different bloggers covered the same things–got to see different perspectives.”

“Since I couldn’t attend the meeting, I really appreciated the opportunity to see the highlights in the blogs.  This way the information is more current than waiting for someone to write a more formal report.”

“I am so glad the initiative was taken to have a conference blog. The blog may not be perfect but it’s a great start…the point is that we tried. Learn a little from this one and see what else next year brings! I really like being able to catch the stuff I missed because I was at other meetings. Also being able look at postings after the meeting as I reflect on the meeting is helpful.”

Sample comments from those that thought the blog covered the annual meeting fairly well:

“Very helpful to have links to related content within the blog posts (Roz Dudden and the Bosworth article, NLM update links, etc).  The blog was accessible to me at work (Wiki was not).  The organization of the blog was useful (bloggers; blogger calendar; meeting calendar, posts by date, tags, etc).  Pictures in the blog were fun — I would have enjoyed seeing more of those including some ID of members show.  (note: Flckr not available at work & checking from home a time or 2, there weren’t  a lot of pics). I also appreciated the “real time” aspect of the blog — I tracked timing of sessions & wanted to read posts ASAP afterwards. I loved the blog & think it was terrific as a start on providing this online connection to the meeting.”

“It was something to refer to since I couldn’t go to the meeting. However, it was no substitute!”

Sample comments from those that thought the blog was poor in its coverage of the annual meeting:

“A small view of the conference.”

“More in depth than twitter comments; more permanent way of “archiving” the information.”

The survey also asked people their thoughts on “What was missing or what could have been done better.”  Below are sample comments from those who thought the blog covered the annual meeting events well & extremely well, fairly well, and poorly. 

Sample comments from those that thought the blog covered the annual meeting well or extremely well:

“The only thing is I wish there would have been more information on the vendors present and the products available. Maybe even have some vendors blog, not sure about this with bias and everything. But it is a nice way to see the new products if you are not able to attend the meeting.”

“I wish more people had commented. Maybe next year.”

“There were too many posts to keep up with.  I would have liked a smaller number of bloggers and targeted posts on key events.  Or, maybe the same number of bloggers but different blogs for different things – social events, keynote or special events, commentary, etc…”

“Best to not report about the vendor parties.  Stick to MLA events.  Sorry to be a pill.  Could use more pictures and coverage of booth activities. Needed business meeting coverage.  Did any blogger go? Who won the awards? would like a preview.”

“I wish more of the information from the presentations such as posters, slideshares, videos, referenced websites could have been linked to from the descriptive blog posts.”

Sample comments from those that thought the blog covered the annual meeting fairly well:

“Links to posts from bloggers’ names & the meeting calendar would have been useful (not sure if that’s possible).  I also wish there were more comments on the posts/sessions from others attending the meeting.  I always come away from poster and papers with lots of notes and starred* items I want to followup on when I get home. Somehow capturing some of the ideas sparked during sessions (or just more comments on the posts) would be great. How about an “in the hallways” blogger?  What other stuff was being talked about at the meetings (there’s always some MLA business item swirling). A “walkthrough” the exhibits?  ”

“I think events could have been covered more completely–and  more events could have been covered.”

“TOO MANY bloggers added to the confusion.  Different blogging styles, etc. … The photo qualities were inconsistent.
Please just a few bloggers next year.  21 (I think) bloggers kind of seemed ridiculous to the many of us who could not afford to attend the MLA conference in Honolulu this year.”

“I attended the meeting, but if I had not attended, more comprehensive coverage would have been helpful.”

Sample comments from those that thought the blog was poor in its coverage of the annual meeting:

“MORE MORE MORE postings. There were so many of us who could not go this year. More information could only have been better. Twitter was much more lively way to follow things, with truer and more candid thoughts.”

“very sparse if done next year, there needs to be way more postings”

“Longer posts with more detail. Some posts I read on sessions I actually attended were too vague and too short. If you have one next year, please set out some guidelines for posters to follow. I did not find this year’s posts all that useful.”

Finally the survey asked whether MLA should have a meeting blog next year.  Only two people said no, five people did not answer the question, and 63 people said yes.  Interestingly one of the “No” answers thought the bloggers covered the conference events well.  The people who did not answer this question also did not answer how well they thought the blog covered the annual meeting’s events. 

Krafty’s thoughts:

After crunching the numbers and sifting through the comments it was interesting to see the two biggest suggestions (wants) and complaints were along the lines of not enough bloggers & coverage and too many bloggers & too much/cluttered information.  I have to say setting up and running point on the blog was a fairly big job.  After blogging several conferences independently and as an “official” blogger, I knew that it would be difficult for us to cover everything.  My goal was to get as many possible good writers/bloggers who were dedicated to posting about the conference.  I had two reasons for this decision. 

1. I knew that it would be extremely difficult to have only a few bloggers do adequate coverage of the conference.  Bloggers split their time between being a regular attendee and a bloger, if you remember we are attending to learn about things too.  We aren’t their solely to report on the annual meeting.  Many of us this year also had many other duties (presenting, representing committees, etc.) at this conference.  My other meeting obligations were part of the reasons I was even able to go to the meeting this year.  We couldn’t blog on everything we did and saw, that is why it helped to have many other bloggers who could theoretically blog on something when others couldn’t. 

2. Due to the economy tanking and travel budgets being restricted I knew that a lot of people who normally attend the meeting would be staying home.  So I wanted to make sure that we had enough people to try and cover many different events.

Based on the conflicting comments, “too many posts, not enough information, too many bloggers, need more bloggers,” I think it would be better to have a better list of what topics bloggers intend to cover.  We tried to do this with the blogging calendar, but perhaps we need to be a little more focused.  One thing to note is that I posted on the MLA meeting blog and on this blog asking for suggestions on what events readers wanted us to cover, there were very few responses/comments.  The bloggers can only cover so many things and if you don’t let us know ahead of time, we can’t cover it.  

Another thought would be to have better organization to the blog.  Right now I am not sure how this can be done since many blogs list entries in chronological order.  Perhaps in the future we can look at subject organization (spoken like a true librarian) and only the titles or perhaps the first 2-3 sentences show up on the main page.  That will take some investigating. 

I do wish there was more commenting and interaction going on within the blog.  I am not sure if the lack of commenting was just the usual comment malaise that faces many good blogs or if it had to do with the time difference between Hawaii and main land.  I know many conference attendees (myself included) always were on the go and had little down time and who wants to spend their little bit of down time stuck to a computer in Hawaii?  Perhaps in the future attendees will be more willing to be online in their down time in less tropically distracting locations. 

All in all I am very satisfied with the blog and the bloggers.  I think we did an awesome job (of course I am really biased) :)  I think based on the feedback, MLA should consider continuing the annual meeting blog.  But what are your thoughts?  I would love to hear them, especially from those of you who did not complete the survey.  Drop a line and leave a comment, this is your chance to help shape communication at the annual meeting.

Listing of STM Publishers Who Froze or Lowered 2010 Prices

The list of STM publishers who have frozen or lowered their 2010 prices is now available.  The MLA’s Ad Hoc Committee for Advocating Scholarly Communications compiled the list with help from members of the library community. The list shows many publishers who have frozen 2010 prices at 2009 levels and who are offering libraries additional pricing options in recognition of current economic constraints.

This list will continue to be updated as information becomes available, so if you are a publisher or a librarian who knows of a publisher who should be added please notify the contact person on the web page.

Posts Will Be Sporadic

These last two weeks have been extremely hectic for me.  I have tried to keep posting on my off time but I have been off my normal routine.  This is not the way I usually do things.  I love writing and posting and enjoying hearing from readers.  But I have been busier than normal and just haven’t had time to post as usual.  For those of you who don’t know, I sold my house.  After 2-3 years of it being on/off the market we had somebody come in on July 4th weekend and buy it.  The key stressor (and the reason I have not been posting as much), the buyer wanted to close on July 23rd!  We have outgrown our starter home and have been wanting to move for so long, and in this market when somebody wants your house you will do almost anything to sell it.

We had two weekends to find a place to live and to move our stuff.  A family of four (plus one large dog) has a lot of stuff and it is difficult to move out quickly.  After going on a whirlwind tour viewing 10 potential houses in 5 hours, we decided after several cold beers and Tylenol that we didn’t want to rush into buying anything.  Additionally it was highly unlikely that we would be able to close on even an empty house and move in by July 23rd.  So we decided to move into an apartment until we could find a new home.  Still, finding an available apartment for a family at a reasonable price (not more than my mortgage) and allowed large dogs was impossible.  Once we decided Baxter, the beloved family dog, would go on “vacation” with my mom in St. Louis, it made finding an apartment slightly easier. 

Last weekend was spending packing and moving.  This week we are still in the middle of moving little odds and ends out and cleaning the house.  Cross my fingers all will go well and we will only be squooshed in an apartment for a small amount of time.  But in the mean time my posts will be a little sporadic as I just don’t have the time or space to sit down to write or keep up with all of the library world events.  When things start to settle down I will be back to posting as usual. 

One weekend to pack and move.
One weekend to pack and move.

Doing More With Less

These days everybody is trying to do more with less money.  Although this is usually viewed negatively and most often discussed as budgets shrink, the concept of doing more for less or getting the best bang for your budget really shouldn’t be thought of in a negative light.   In lean times it can help keep or maintain some programs, resources and services.  In prosperous times (when we don’t often talk about this topic) it often means having the ability to purchase something extra.  

In my previous posts I mentioned the various publishers who were freezing or lowering their 2010 subscription costs.  With the advent of the Internet and the electronic journal there are a whole host of ways to get creative and try and save money on your journal budget.  Saving money on journals doesn’t always mean cutting the journal collection.  Some publisher’s offer cheaper subscription costs for online only access.  It is also important to take into account the other “hidden factors” in your journal collection.  One publisher’s online only journals might be more expensive than the printed version, but you don’t have to spend time (salary dollars) checking in the journal, you don’t have to spend time and money on binding, you don’t have to worry about theft, and your usage statistics are easily collected online.  The cost of a printed journal is more expense than the subscription.  It is also probably extremely helpful to invest in an A-Z product through a company like Serials Solutions or EBSCO.  These products are relatively inexpensive for the amount of time they save maintaining the online links to journals, collecting and providing usage statistics.  Now it sounds funny to say spend money to save money, but an A-Z service can also help you better determine your electronic journal collection overlap.  Why pay for something when you are getting it from other sources or packages? 

There are all sort of other ways to save and get the most for your library dollars.  One of the librarians at my institution has submitted the abstract to a poster for Midwest MLA detailing how she has saved the library approximately $5,000/year by actively requesting for a donated copy of each new book authored or edited by our institutional authors.  Right now about 50% of the institution’s staff authors donate a copy of their book to the library.  Think of the savings if she were to get the donation rate even higher.  The librarian also discovered other ways to save money through other types of book donations and by negotiating with publishers.  I don’t want to steal her thunder so if/when her abstract is accepted I will link out to it and her poster.

Of course these budget issues are hitting more than just the academic medical and the hospital library world.  The recently released study (July 15, 2009) Ithaka Case Studies in Sustainability project is a multi-year, international exploration of the strategies being used to support digital initiatives over the long term.  Twelve cases are presented with special attention to cost management strategies.  Some of the studies are from groups and projects outside of the United States and some are humanities based. 

There are those in the medical library world who are looking at ways to save money or creating lists of companies with more favorable pricing and conditions.  As I mentioned in an earlier posts, MLA’s Scholarly Communications Committee is creating a list of STM publishers who have frozen or decreased their 2010 subscription prices.  Mark Funk, previous MLA president is also looking at innovative ways medical librarians are using to save money and fund resources and services.  Recently he sent a post to MEDLIB asking for suggestions (re-posted with permission below).

I will be speaking at the UNYOC Chapter meeting in October on collection development in times of diminishing budgets. Oh sure, I have some things I do to deal with budget issues, but that won’t fill up 40 minutes. And most of them only work for academic medical libraries. So I’m asking the medical library community to send me the things you are now doing to deal with a diminished budget to my blog.

I will put the best suggestions into my presentation, and make the presentation available for everyone. So consider this a joint cooperative publication, with me as the editor. I suspect that many of us are doing the same things, but I will identify interesting techniques with your name, if you allow me.

Please post your techniques, even if they seem obvious to you. Here’s what I’m doing (although some pre-date the current economic situation):

  • Join consortia (lowers pricing, saves on negotiation time.)
  • Partner with the main library (our annual share of the Springer ebook package  is less than what we used to pay for print Springer books from our  approval plan, and we get tons more.)
  • Substitute free “lite” versions for little used paid databases (AGELINE, AGRICOLA.)
  • Use those cancellation privileges in your big deal (every $100 helps. /sarcasm)
  • Go e-only whenever possible (although sometimes this is more costly, watch out.)
  • Cancel the approval plan.
Come on, show the world your brilliant idea. Let me know if I can credit your idea. I’ve already received some excellent ideas; please keep them coming.


So what are you doing in your library?  How are you doing more (or the same) with less money.  have you cut things or have you been more judicious in your selection process?  Let Mark know and feel free to also leave a comment.  I think we all can learn a few new tricks.

MLA Scholarly Communications Committee Tracking STM Publishers Who Freeze or Decrease 2010 Prices

Shortly after I wrote the post about AMA freezing their 2010 subscription prices at 2009 price, I cam across this poston liblicense.  According to the email posted on the list, MLA’s Scholarly Communications Committee is creating a list of STM publishers who have either frozen or decreased their 2010 subscription prices for some of their journals.

They are willing to share this information once they have it all compiled. 

Below is a list of the publishers they are currently aware of so far.  If you know of any STM publishers not on the list who have frozen or decreased their prices for some of the journals, contact Karen Albert, Senior Director for Education and Information Services at Talbot Research Library karenalbert[at sign]fccc[dot]com.

  • ASM (American Society for Microbiology)
  • *American Mathematical Society
  • Annual Reviews
  • ***European Endocrinology Societies –Price freezing on selected
    individual titles for libraries that can commit to continuing to
    subscribe for 2010-12
  • SPIE
  • National Academy of Sciences – PNAS
  • Oxford U. Press: there will be no increase in the online only price between 2009 and 2010 for the majority of our journals.
  • Rockefeller U. Press
  • Earthscan

This list might be very helpful.  I think it would be interesting to have a list of database providers, ebook providers, and other online resources too.  However that might be initially biting off more than we can chew.