Cornell University Library and the Big Deals 2019

FAQs: Cornell University Library (CUL) and “big deal” journal packages

What are “big deal” journal packages?

In the late 1990’s, large academic publishers started offering multi-year bundled subscription packages to their scholarly journals, commonly referred to as “big deals.” In 2019 this subscription model is still a big part of the publishing landscape.

What are the pros and cons of “big deal” journal packages?

“Big deals” usually offer a deeply discounted price to a large bundle of journals as compared to title-by-title subscriptions to the same number of journals. However, over the years, the bundles have grown and so have their costs, at rates consistently outpacing library budgets. As a result, more and more of library collection development funds are being tied up in these journal packages to the detriment of libraries’ ability to curate collections that are responsive to all local needs.

How much does CUL pay for its “big deal” subscriptions?

A total of about $6 million a year. This is close to a third of all collections-related expenditures.

Is this model sustainable?

No. At many libraries, CUL included, budgets have been mostly flat while subscription costs have kept growing often at levels above inflation. The academic market has gotten to the point where it cannot bear the cost increases anymore, so libraries worldwide are reacting in different ways. For years, CUL has been applying cost containment measures, and for the next contract cycle (2019-2022) we will not devote additional funds to the three largest big deal packages.

What are CUL’s goals?

CUL’s goals are to be responsive to the needs of all of its scholars in a way that is fiscally sustainable. In 2019, sustainability means that for the next three years we will not increase our spending on the “big deals” from the three major publishers whose contracts were up for renewal at the end of 2018.

How can CUL reach this goal given the realities of the publishing market?

We have been using multiple tools:

  • negotiation: the price and other terms governing big deals are not fixed, and are usually the result of many months of negotiations between librarians and vendors
  • building and maintaining locally tailored collections (based on both usage data and local subject expertise)
  • for lower use titles, shifting from subscriptions to providing article level access through document delivery services both from our partner libraries and some publishers
  • championing the cause of open access
  • and continuing with big deals when they are the best ways to serve our users’ needs.

What are the changes for 2019 and beyond?

For 2019-2022 we will step away from Wiley’s “big deal” in favor of a curated list of their individual titles. The titles have been identified based on a combination of title cost and usage and were fine-tuned by local collection development experts. We will have some flexibility in adjusting the title list during the three years of the contract.

Current Wiley journal status

What if I need a journal that CUL no longer subscribes to?

The Library will acquire articles for you via interlibrary loan or other document delivery services. In the electronic environment, these options are usually quite rapid. Additionally, we will have some flexibility to swap Wiley titles in and out of our collection during our contract.

How do I request an article for delivery?

The Library is committed to providing access to individual articles to which we do not have a current subscription. We will acquire them for Cornell patrons via the fastest document delivery option available for the specific article. For the quickest way to make a request, paste the article DOI into our request form (DOIs can be found in databases and references.) That will autofill the article information and will alert you if an open access version of the article is immediately available. Please use the article request form.

What about older Wiley titles?

The Library has online perpetual access rights to every issue of all Wiley journals published from 2016-2018, and, through our previous subscription agreements, to many of those published before 2016. Additionally, we can scan articles on demand from our print journal collection.

What about other big deal publishers?

For 2019-2022 we will continue to subscribe to Elsevier and SpringerNature packages.

How did you arrive at this approach?

A small task force of librarians knowledgeable about both national trends and local needs conducted confidential negotiations with three major publishers involving thousands of journal titles. They made recommendations after developing and comparing multiple scenarios, all informed by data about Cornell’s use of specific journals titles, and the cost of the individual titles in comparison to package costs. Despite the compressed timeline, subject librarians had an opportunity to fine-tune the list based on their knowledge of departmental needs. To allow responsiveness to faculty input, we retained flexibility to swap Wiley titles in and out of our collection during our contract.

What if I have concerns or questions?

Contact your library liaison, or Kizer Walker, Director of Collections,