The Importance of Being Open

The library has just finished developing our budget proposal for next year. As part of the broad budget adjustments happening across the college, we submitted a budget that is 3% less than last year’s. Because the cost of library materials increases on average by 5% per year, a 3% reduction relative to last year could require us to reduce our spending on library materials by 8%. The majority of our materials budget goes towards journals and databases. We’ll be engaging the community this spring in a process to help us decide where to reduce spending in a way that will have the least impact on the curriculum and on the research programs of our faculty and students. We very much hope that you will participate in these conversations to help us make sound decisions.

While our local budget challenges are exacerbating this problem, it is important to recognize that the broader system of scholarly communication has reached a point of being unsustainable, meaning that the rates of increase for the past two decades have vastly outpaced inflation, and that we would have eventually faced these same cuts regardless of our local budget situation. In addition to carefully studying usage patterns and costs for the journals and databases that we currently subscribe to, we also believe that we need to find ways to participate in national and international efforts to re-think how the system of scholarly communication functions.

To that end, in addition to our work on a local open access policy (go\openaccess\) and our support for the Lever Press, we recently joined SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) which in their words is “is a global coalition committed to making Open the default for research and education. SPARC empowers people to solve big problems and make new discoveries through the adoption of policies and practices that advance Open Access, Open Data, and Open Education.”  We’ll be inviting representatives from SPARC to campus this spring to help us understand what we as a small college can do to help transform the system to make it both more open, and more financially sustainable.