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Stanford and the Serials Crisis

(Caveat lector: The following is verbatim from a memo distributed by Michael Keller, University Librarian for Stanford University Libraries [which covers all of the undergraduate libraries ... the libraries of the law, medical and business schools aren't part of SUL]. This is a motion that was passed by the Academic Senate's Committee on Libraries on January 19, 2004.)


Although the costs for production and distribution of academic journals are falling due to advances in technology, the prices of many (especially for-profit) journals have been rising much faster than the rate of inflation. This pricing trend puts severe pressure on Stanford�s constrained library budgets.

Stanford has a practical and principled interest in the broadest dissemination possible of scholarly works, and the escalating cost of journals has the effect of limiting the dissemination of scholarship. It is ironic that many Stanford scholars � like scholars throughout higher education � volunteer their articles and labor in the production, review and editing of journal content, only to have the final product sold back to Stanford, sometimes at exorbitant prices.

Many for-profit journal publishers use the technique of �bundling� major journal titles with minor ones and further require multi-year contracts to lock-in revenue. These pricing strategies create more pressure on library budgets, thereby hindering the dissemination of scholarship.

Low-cost academic publishing alternatives, both traditional and innovative, do exist, many of which are non-profit. These alternatives serve the public good by enhancing wide distribution of knowledge, while simultaneously reducing the strain on library budgets.

For all these reasons, the Senate endorses the following guidelines as recommended by C-Lib to all Stanford libraries, faculty and departments.

1. Faculty and libraries are encouraged to support affordable scholarly journals, such as by volunteering articles and labor in the production, review and editing of journal content.

2. Libraries are encouraged to refuse �big deal� or bundled subscription plans that limit the librarian�s traditional responsibility to make collection development decisions on a title-by-title basis in the best interest of the academic community.

3. Libraries are encouraged to scrutinize the pricing of journals and to drop those where pricing decisions have made them disproportionately expensive compared to their educational and research value. Special attention should be paid to for-profit journals in general and to those published by Elsevier in particular.

4. Faculty, especially senior faculty, are strongly encouraged in the future not to contribute articles or editorial or review efforts to publishers and journals that engage in exploitive or exorbitant pricing, and instead look to other and more reasonably-priced vehicles for disseminating their research results.


Again, it doesn't say anything about promotion and tenure policies, does it? *sigh*

No. But this declaration may only be a start. There's going to have to be a fair bit of collaboration and negotiation, but what little I know about Keller, he's not going to let this go.

Unfortunately, this was passed at the same time that a tuition increase for Ph.D students was discussed in the Senate, so it didn't get a lot of press.

Indeed, this is a very good start! The local consortium here (TRLN) just dropped their bundle of Elsevier stuff, but each school can still buy what they want seperately. I adore that there is a push here for support for reasonably priced journals.

But yes, tenure is always the sticky wicket, isn't it? I think that will change...slowly, slowly...

Heh. I just read about TRLN's actions in the lastest C&I yesterday.

I feel for your acquisitions staff, though. Cancellations are work. Mass cancellations are a lot of work.