Faculty Senate fights to keep library journals

Matt Kuhns

The Faculty Senate has approved a committee’s recommendations for improving Parks Library, including the establishment of a premier electronic library at Iowa State.

The Committee to Examine the Crisis in Scholarly Communication and Journal Subscriptions was formed by the Faculty Senate in May on the recommendation of David Hopper, professor of veterinary medicine.

Hopper said he suggested forming the committee, which he chairs, to respond to the ongoing cuts in the library’s journal collection in recent years.

He said over the last two decades, numerous consolidations in the publishing industry have created near-monopoly conditions.

As a result, “the cost of journals has been rising dramatically,” Hopper said.

Parks Library Collections Officer Kristin Gerhard said while the library’s budget has increased about 5 to 7 percent, the cost of journal subscriptions has risen between 10 and 20 percent.

Gerhard said science and technology journals, which make up a large part of ISU’s journal collection, have seen the largest cost increase.

She said the climbing cost of journals is a problem at universities across the nation.

“We’ve been doing reasonably well” compared to other schools, Gerhard said.

Hopper said the problem of increasing costs has been compounded by the number of titles available, expanding by almost 60 percent.

As a result of journal costs outpacing the library’s budget, there have been four major cutbacks in ISU’s journal subscriptions since 1980, reducing the total by almost 40 percent, he said.

“A strong library is the heart of strong scholarship,” Hopper said, adding that the journal cuts “can do nothing but negatively impact academics.”

The report submitted by the committee states that the Parks Library has “lost its competitive edge” in two areas: support for an electronic library and the journal collections budget.

The committee’s report includes 27 recommendations for the university and library and identifies three “key” recommendations.

One of the key recommendations, establishing a premier electronic library, currently is difficult because many publishers will not offer an online subscription to journals without also subscribing to the print version.

“You can’t get just the electronic version,” Hopper said, adding that changing that situation is one of the committee’s goals.

The other key recommendations are to protect the core of the library’s journal collection from further cancellations and to promote involvement in a national dialogue on the scholarly communication crisis.