Calculating the costs of library e-resources

By Kevin Teller

A representative from Kresge Library will speak on how to use the library’s electronic resources. While some may see this as an opportunity to catch up on some sleep or Facebook-scrolling, this is a learning opportunity on how to obtain and publish with the library’s resources.

Once a professor writes an article that is published in an academic journal, the publisher then sells that journal to libraries such as Kresge across the country.

The associate dean of Oakland University libraries, Shawn Lombardo, describes the publishing business as “cutthroat.”

“The publishers argue that they have to now maintain servers and online content, so the environment has gotten more complex,” Lombardo said.

Essentially, the companies that compile the databases are paid to act as an intermediary between the academic journal publishers and Kresge.

OU Libraries are not at liberty to discuss individual contracts with database providers, but the aggregate total amount that was spent on electronic resources, such as these last year, was approximately $2.4 million. This accounts for more than 130 databases—50,000 journals—that are online at Kresge.

Some may believe this money goes back to the scholars in some way. However, this is not the case.

“Faculty members are required to publish their work in academic journals. It is the standard by which their career success is measured. It is also required for tenure and promotion purposes, Dr. Rebekah Farrugia, communications professor, said.

Some are uneasy about the fact that so much money is going to these companies who simply compile the information that is presented to them. But it is difficult to judge whether $2.4 million is an appropriate amount for the university to put into the industry.

The world of readily available electronic media is still relatively new. KresgeLibrary began moving its vast supply of texts online in the early 2000s, according to collection development librarian Helen Levenson.

“It was around this time that we saw the price of journals increase, too,” Lombardo said.

Accompanying this issue is a myriad of questions about intellectual property. For instance, Lombardo credits free publications such as Michigan eLibrary (MEL) with putting pressure on the publishing companies to keep prices affordable.

Another way in which publishers’ prices are challenged is from the Midwest Collaborative for Library Services (MCLS).

“They(MCLS) negotiate license agreements with more favorable terms for the universities,” Lombardo said. “Because they have a lot of universities behind them, they can negotiate smaller annual increases.”

It is because of companies such as MEL and MCLS that libraries feel a sense of relief about publishers’ prices.

Future tuition money given to such technological advances remains unknown for the university.