RLI 282 13
The State of Large-Publisher Bundles in 2012
Karla L. Strieb,1 Associate Director, Collections, Technical Services and Scholarly Communication, Ohio
State University Libraries
Julia C. Blixrud, Assistant Executive Director, Scholarly Communication, Association of Research
A Decade of Experience with Journal Bundles
F membership about their licensed collections of journal titles. In 2002, ARL asked for informationor well over a decade, research libraries have been spending millions of dollars per year licensingcollections of journals published by just a handful of publishers. Ten years ago ARL surveyed its
regarding members’ expenditures for 60 journal publishers, ultimately reporting findings for the 7
most commonly subscribed publishers. In 2003, a second survey added further information about some
licensing terms.2 ARL surveyed its members again in 2005 about their 2006 licenses with the 6 largest
publishers at that time.3 Early in the summer of 2012, ARL again surveyed its member libraries about their
subscriptions to journal collections from large publishers.4 The data collected in this most recent survey
show that a great deal has changed in the last decade, and yet several issues remain concerns within the
library community. Pricing models and license terms, consortial arrangements, and the conversion from
print to electronic subscriptions remain issues across the surveys.
Interest in research library subscriptions to large-publisher bundles persists for several reasons.
Perhaps the primary reason is that, for more than a decade, a small group of publishers account for
a disproportionate amount of libraries’ materials expenditures. Although it is difficult or perhaps
impossible to gather accurate, comparable data on the prices libraries are paying for the largest publishers’
journals, there is no question that these are the most expensive purchases research libraries are making
with their materials dollars. How libraries can manage these expenditures, and how much value they
receive for them, is mediated by the terms of the licenses that define these cornerstone purchases. License
terms have been an issue of discussion within the research library community since the beginning of
e-journal production. Initially, identifying key issues for negotiation was a primary focus. More recently,
concern about the frequency and effect of nondisclosure clauses has generated community debate.
New discussion threads have arisen around license terms that may be of particular interest to research
libraries, such as text-mining rights, the ability to archive articles by authors affiliated with the licensee,
details of ILL requirements, and preservation-related terms.
Another much-discussed element in the landscape of large-publisher licenses has been the ability to
cancel titles within collections or otherwise manage inflation or reduce expenditures as needed by
subscribing libraries. A major, global recession began in 2008, and surveys of ARL members throughout
the recession documented considerable financial strains on member library budgets.5 The goal of this
article reporting results of the 2012 survey is to help the community understand how well libraries were
able to manage expenditures in the face of their long-term, high-cost commitments to large publishers,
and what changes in licensing terms and practices occurred.
RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC 2013