Never mind the quality…

This post written by David Beales.

If you’re anything like me, there are some things in your job you are really on top of and some that you can just about bluff your way through. I think ejournal metrics falls into the latter category for most of us. I could talk enough about cost per download figures to be a really boring dinner guest but I only really got into it because I had to come up with an emetrics model for RLUK.

Anyway, it seems that, according to Paula Gantz, we’ve been counting the wrong thing. It turns out that everything is okay. Who knew?

We’ve been down this road many times before. Librarians complain to publishers that we can’t afford their journal packages and we just want control of our budgets back. Publishers tell librarians that the packages offer such great value for money that we can’t really complain. Look at the downloads! They must be good value. Why else would they be called “big deals”?

If it was up to me I’d cancel everything just to have something new to talk about. Luckily I’m not in charge. But I am looking again at journal packages as part of a CSU wide review and I also think we have been counting the wrong things, or rather that we haven’t counted everything we should.

Currently, the standard way to consider the value of a package. is to ask the question “Without spending any more money, can we maintain access to all the articles we currently get through a combination of individual subscription and interlibrary loan?” The problem with this is that it doesn’t include all of the articles we already get on interlibrary loan, which we should probably be subscribing to but can’t afford.

A new way of thinking about the value of ejournal packages

If we approach the question differently, we could ask “If we cancelled this package, what would we buy with all of the money we freed up?”

The answer would include the best performing titles from the cancelled package but some of the middling and poorly performing titles would lose out to titles that we currently get through interlibrary loan already.

I’ll be coming back to this subject as we share the model we have created at Cal Poly with our colleagues in CSU. Cancelling will not be the best option for every institution or for every package, but some institutions are already going down this route . It might be worth a look for more of us than we realize.

photo by Thomas Claveirole
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