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Academics’ access to journals: it’s no longer a ‘big deal’

How academic libraries access scholarly publications is evolving and diversifying, according to a recent article by Lettie Y. Conrad published in The Scholarly Kitchen. Traditionally, libraries have entered into ‘big deals’ with publishers: licensing agreements that provide packaged access to a large volume of journal content. However, as more and more libraries cancel these subscription packages, ‘little deals’ are on the rise – shifting academic library purchasing power closer to serving individual needs of researchers, learners and scholars, and permitting financial and strategic flexibility.

Conrad outlines some of the ‘little deals’ available to academic libraries:

  • Pay-per-view article-level services: on-demand article purchasing is increasing, with libraries using both manual and automated methods, such as Reprints Desk / Research Solutions, to access articles at the point of need.
  • A la carte subscriptions: libraries are collaborating with academic staff and other stakeholders to ensure that their subscriptions best meet institutional needs.
  • Open access options: the rise of open access publishing provides another way for libraries to meet their user’s requirements. Some libraries are adding specialised search tools that automatically redirect users to open versions of publications.
  • Transformative agreements: these shift the contracted payments from libraries to publishers away from subscription-based reading and towards open access.
  • Alternative routes: libraries are testing new models, tools, and services and facilitating collaborations to help meet user needs as ‘big deals’ are cancelled.

In the face of these changing times, Conrad urges publishers to “to assess sales strategies and customer relationships” and to carry out needs assessments.

Conrad notes that “this is not a time [for publishers] to be forcing one-size-fits-all solutions”.

Conrad also questions how the user’s journey through accessing articles will evolve and how information management will be transformed. Certainly, these ‘little deals’ could create big changes for publishers, institutions and learners.


Summary by Louise Niven DPhil from Aspire Scientific


With thanks to our sponsor, Aspire Scientific Ltd

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