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Database and Journal Subscription Changes: January 2016

List of Subscription Changes

The attached Excel spreadsheet (.xlsx) contains a list of titles whose subscriptions came up for renewal since April 2015. Please use the links above to view older lists.

Each title shows the format of the title (print or electronic), the decision made (whether to renew or cancel), the date of the decision (if canceled), and the volume/issue/year of the effective date of the cancelation (if applicable).

From the University Librarian

Dear faculty friends,

This is the third in a series of communications relating to the Libraries' budget situation that I've sent you over about the past eighteen months.  An updated list of cancelled journals and database titles has been posted to the Libraries' website at: http://libraryguides.mta.ca/subscription_changes/2016-01

These cancellations were not arbitrary or capricious choices.  We've spent a great deal  of time reviewing each journal title and every database, examining usage statistics, comparing title lists for overlap, etc.  In our first round (2014-2015) we were able to identify some less-used materials that could be cut relatively easily; I've come to think of that as the "flesh" round.  In 2015-2016 the choices are increasingly difficult and painful; we're now cutting "muscle and bone".

As are numerous other academic libraries:  you may have heard about the situation at MUN in December

(http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/memorial-university-to-cancel-thousands-of-journal-subscriptions-1.3354711

and http://today.mun.ca/news.php?id=9862).

Meanwhile, book budgets have also dropped considerably in most areas, often as a direct consequence of our attempts to preserve core journals and databases.

I dislike the overused-to-the-point-of-triviality phrase "perfect storm", and yet, the budget situation of the Libraries as it relates to acquisitions of books and journals(1) can hardly be described otherwise.

In July 2014 and April 2015 I described our budgetary challenges, which can be summarized in the following points:

  • a difficult University budget situation, whose main drivers are to be found in flat/declining enrollments, flat/declining Provincial allocations, and a Provincially-mandated tuition freeze;
  • a flat/declining operating allocation for acquisitions, going back at least five years;
  • an expectation that endowment income will replace diminishing operating funds for acquisitions purposes, notwithstanding that
    • such income, since it comes from equity market investments, can be highly variable from year to year;
    • over 80% of our endowment income is restricted by donors to specific subject areas.  These restrictions mean that the income produced is unevenly distributed, with a very few subject areas receiving quite large allocations and many other areas receiving little or none;
  • materials (i.e., books and journals) prices increasing an average of 2-5% per year;
  • continued consolidation in the publishing sector, with fewer and fewer firms controlling more and more content;
  • publisher/vendor "bundling" of e-journals into huge, expensive packages, where only a handful of titles may be used here.  Cable TV channel bundles are a perfect analogue (thanks to my colleague Anita Cannon for this easily understood cognate);
  • the collapse in the exchange value of the loonie, as compared with the US dollar or the Euro, currencies which in aggregate represent at least 60% of our acquisitions expenditures.

This last factor is the one that is most responsible for our present dire situation.  While each of the above challenges is serious by itself, for the Mount Allison Libraries and Archives the plummeting value of the loonie against the USD and other currencies is critical.

In an environment characterized by flat or shrinking budgets and all of the other factors I've described, the value of the Canadian dollar relative to other currencies is the proverbial back-breaking straw.

Consider the following:

Date USD/CAD Rate in USD
USD-CAD Exchange Rates Over Time
07-13 January 2013 1.0144
03-09 June 2013 0.9725
06-12 January 2014 0.9254
02-08 June 2014 0.9157
05-11 January 2015 0.8453
01-07 June 2015 0.8023
28 December 2015-03 January 2016 0.7217
04 January 2016 0.7190

So, as of January 2016, for every US dollar expended on books or journals, we have to pay around CAD 1.40; throw in the actual charge levied by those selling us the US dollars, and you're now up to about CAD 1.42 per US dollar.  Considering that the two currencies were at parity a mere three years ago, that's a huge loss of buying power.

It may surprise some to learn that the great majority of our acquisitions budget is not expended on materials published in Canada; rather, approximately 60% of our acquisitions dollars pay for resources that are natively priced in currencies other than the loonie... mainly, US dollars.  While it would be far simpler and cheaper to respond to the loonie's precipitous decline by acquiring only materials published in Canada, clearly this is an absurd proposition.

Put another way, in the context of Mount Allison's library acquisitions budget, for every *penny* of decrease in the value of the Canadian dollar against the USD, our aggregate spending power decreases by *CAD 8,600*, assuming a total materials budget (operating & endowment) of about CAD 860,000.  Thus, as shown in the numbers from the preceding table, the purchasing power of our CAD 860,000 (i.e. our ability to pay for anything billed in USD) has fallen from about CAD 872,000 in January 2013 to about CAD 618,000 in January 2016 -- a decrease in spending power of about CAD 254,000... over a quarter of a million dollars!

The upshot is that for the foreseeable future, I see no path to "sustainability" in our library acquisitions spending, particularly insofar as non-Canadian materials are concerned.   Mount Allison is, as are post-secondary institutions generally, in a period marked by the convergence of economic, demographic, and public policy challenges that are beyond its control.  Academic libraries, our own included, are bit players in that drama:  our institutions' situations will continue to be difficult, and painful priority-setting will be required.  Given the (entirely legitimate) need of other campus stakeholders for Mount A.'s limited resources, I see further hard choices ahead.  Absent a stabilization -- to say nothing of a reversal -- in the exchange rate, we are looking at continued cuts in acquisitions for at least the next several years.  I regret that I don't have better news to share.

We in the Libraries will continue to seek creative approaches to these challenges.  As always, I am grateful for your patience, your ideas, and your support.  Please feel free to share your thoughts with your subject librarian and/or me; we are always listening.

 

regards,

- mt

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(1) Journals meaning e-journals, so-called databases, and the few remaining paper journals to which we still subscribe.

Your Comments

We welcome your comments and invite you to make your concerns, questions, and ideas known by contacting your subject liaison librarian or the University Librarian, Marc Truitt