Database/Journal Review Update


As you are probably aware, in FY18 many areas of the College are working with reduced budgets in an overall effort to bring expenditures back in line with actual revenues.  The library is no exception, and this year our acquisitions budget was reduced by 0.5% from FY17.  While that may appear to be a negligible amount, library-material costs rise at an annual average of 5%, meaning that we have effectively been asked to reduce our acquisitions expenditures by 5.5%, or roughly $150,000.  One way we did this was by conducting a rigorous review of our ongoing subscriptions to databases and journals packages.  We asked faculty to contribute to this process through a survey we sent out seeking their comments and exploring their use of those resources. A March newsletter article also explored the topic.

The review process involved compiling historical costs and usage data, and asking faculty to detail their own personal, research, professional, and course usage of each database; their sense of each resource’s overall importance; and to provide comments about individual resources and the project as a whole. The library did not include every single resource we subscribe to, as some are so important to an academic library that we would never consider cancelling them short of the utmost dire circumstances, and also because the survey instrument was already lengthy without them.


154 faculty and staff members provided input on at least one resource in the survey, and added a total of 207 comments. This input was critical to the discussions and negotiations conducted among the librarians who serve as liaisons and subject experts for the College’s academic departments and programs. We used the survey results as one element in ranking the databases for cancellation, pending the actual budget we received in late spring.  Among the other factors we took into account were the librarians’ own observations on costs and usage, our knowledge of faculty teaching and research, our knowledge of the uniqueness of various resources, and our knowledge of how important the various resources are considered in their respective disciplines overall.

In the end, we cancelled 27 databases totaling $107,219, in order to meet our FY18 budget.  Since we knew that so many of our databases are vitally important to faculty, we didn’t try to recoup the entire budget reduction from databases alone; the remaining savings are coming from elimination of an automated ebook-purchasing program and an automated video-purchasing program (but don’t worry–we are still purchasing ebooks and videos upon request!), an interlibrary-loan service that we’ve replaced with a much less expensive one, and some library workflow changes.

We were also able to offset some of the cancellations in other ways.  Occasionally, at the end of the year, we have a small pool of one-time funds (i.e., as opposed to funds for ongoing subscriptions) remaining after all the academic-year requests for books, DVDs, and other purchases have been fulfilled.  At the end of FY17, we were used those funds to add a few small, inexpensive resources in areas where we had made cancellations.  These new one-time purchases included: the 65 most heavily used titles from the electronic database Safari Tech Books, the Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics (to compensate at least in part for cancelling the Responsa database), and others items identified from requests made earlier in the year or in prior years.

Balancing the library budget in a time of austerity with the service and responsiveness the community has come to expect from us over the years is a tricky endeavor, and, while we believe we have successfully navigated this for FY17, we know we will need to continue to be vigilant with regard to our acquisitions dollars.  We are sure there will be further opportunities for input from the community, and we would like to thank everyone who participated in this most recent database review for their careful attention and thoughtful comments.