Western Libraries struggle to maintain access to print subscriptions given their current resources budget

Illustration by Cole Sandhofer

By Erikah Guillen

Western’s faculty members received a notification from the Library Subscription Task Force concerning the future of access to library resources on May 14.

Open access is a way for people all around the world to freely access research. The Library Subscription Task Force at Western is not only attempting to get feedback on open access but subscriptions in general.

According to the Library Subscription Task Force, the Western Libraries lack the budget to maintain all subscriptions currently provided.

“We operate on a budget of roughly 2.2 million dollars annually for subscriptions as well as books and media,” Madeline Kelly, Director of Collections and Chair of the Library Subscription Task Force, said. “We are definitely experiencing that this amount is not enough.”

In the past four years, the Western Libraries have had to cancel multiple subscriptions, including the Bellingham Herald and other print subscriptions.

“Three or four years ago we went through a budget crisis where our subscriptions exceeded our budget and we had to cancel a bunch of those subscriptions,” Kelly said. “I think we had a few comfortable years and now we again feel like we’re a little bit vulnerable.”

The email discussed ways to begin the conversation about the scholarly article landscape with the campus community by creating surveys, open forums, and conversations within each individual college.

“Here at Western, we are part of the broader scholarly ecosystem and have an opportunity to help shape the future of publishing, libraries, and research,” the email said. “To that end, the Libraries will be working with the university community, via the Senate Library Committee and the newly formed Western Libraries Subscription Task Force, to explore our own future.”

This message was sent out after the University of California terminated journal negotiations with Elsevier, a scholarly publishing company.

According to The University of California website UC took a stand against the Elsevier publishing company as a way to take a step toward open access. According to Robert May, chair of UC’s faculty Academic Senate, knowledge should not just be accessible to those who pay.

The library subscription task force is a group consisting of  seven WWU faculty members that help to develop a sustainable, systematic, and comprehensive plan for evaluating and managing subscriptions that goes beyond maintenance and seeks opportunities for change.

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