Collections cost reduction strategy briefing

Posted on Friday, September 23, 2016

Author: Leslie Weir, University Librarian

Decisions:  Reduce spending on monographs by $400K and reduce the journal/database purchases by $1.527M, retaining the complete Wiley collection (currently up for renewal), but retaining only selected titles from the Taylor & Francis and the Springer collections, and obtaining additional savings in serials, database and book expenditures.

The Library must cut a total of $1.927M from its Collections budget in 2016/17.  The community has been made aware of our financial situation through several communiqués posted on our website and a Collections Survey which was carried out in March 2016 which included full-time and part-time faculty and graduate students. The results of this survey were used in the process to identify the journal and database cuts.

The outcome is that the Library will:

  1.  Reduce monograph purchases by $400K:  Having received $600K OTO funds to support acquisition of French monographs, the reduction in monograph spending has been reduced from $1M to $400K.
  2.  Reduce journal/database budget by $1.527M:  In assessing the value of the three journal ‘Big Deal’ collections available for cancellation this year, Springer is deemed to have the second lowest overall value for uOttawa (based on cost, usage, and impact). This is based on an analysis carried out by Canadian Research Knowledge Network (CRKN) for all three of the collections in question.

The Library will retain subscriptions to 65 of the 2,287 Taylor & Francis titles identified in the March 2016 Collections Survey carried out with faculty and graduate students, by at least five faculty members as being important. These are considered as core titles and should minimize the impact of not renewing the full collection and will cost about $114,000 CAD. The complete list of titles to be cut can be found at:

We will also retain 28 of 1,932 Springer titles identified in the Collections survey by at least five faculty members as being important. These are considered as core titles and should minimize the impact of not renewing the full collection. This will cost about $113,000 CAD. The complete list of titles to be cut can be found at:

Our total journal and database cost reduction objective will be $1.3M + $227,000= $1,527,000 CAD.

  • Taylor & Francis collection - $489,603 (2,188 titles)
  • Springer collection - $425,810 (2,396 titles)
  • Law Library (journals, databases) - $135,000
  • Health Sciences Library (databases) – $135,000
  • Morisset Library (Arts, Social Sciences, Science, Engineering, Management, Education) and multidisciplinary funds – $341,587 (this includes journals, and databases (many of which index thousands of other journals))

TOTAL:   $1,527,000

Results of this decision:  With access to more than 8,000 journal titles being lost and substantial cuts to the monograph budget, it achieves the required savings; spreads the cuts across disciplines, but allows us to retain journals identified by faculty to be of high value in priority areas of research.  It will affect our ability to support research & teaching and may provoke media attention.

Next steps

Most of the cancellations will come into effect on January 1, 2017.  We will lose access to back files to 1997 except where we have been able to purchase archives.  Selected publishers have allowed us to purchase back files up to 1997, none have allowed purchases for more recent back files.  A communiqué will go to the University community the last week of September briefing them on the decisions and next steps, including lists of all titles to be cancelled.


Key factors leading to this situation:

  • A lack of indexation to protect against inflation (approximately 6% per year) on scholarly materials: As explained in an earlier communiqué, the library has benefited from an annual indexation of 3-10% for its Collections budget from 1997 to 2014. However in 2015-16 this approach was suspended and has not been reinstated.

Figure 1 Indexation funding versus Inflation rate of periodicals

  • The difficulties in developing a university strategy to mitigate the currency exchange problem: The Library spends more than half of its budget on materials originating from US publishers (i.e. not available from Canadian sources) and the Canadian dollar has been very weak against its US counterpart.  The exchange rate during the past year has varied from 1.21 to 1.45, with the average being 1.31, which has resulted in a substantial loss of purchasing power.
  • The imposition of the 2% cut across the board in the University in 2016-17, with this being the first time that the Library collections budget was not protected from such cuts: In the last round of budget cuts in 2009, the Library abolished 13 positions, but would be unable to maintain operations with any further staff reductions.  It was also determined that the Library’s share of the budget cuts ($539,213) could not be applied to our Operations budget (which was 0.05% of the total budget in 2016 compared with 10% five years ago, excluding salaries and collections). Therefore the full amount was applied to the Collections budget. 

Current snapshot of collections budget

  • The Collections budget is 13.944M in 2016-17; last year it was 15.328M, thus requiring a cut of about 1.3M
  • The budget is comprised of two main components: 
    • Serials/databases: $11,844,910. It is important to note that $550,841 of this amount is used to support access to collections (such as maintenance fees for our catalogue and discovery system as well as institutional memberships).  Therefore the amount spent on serials and databases is $11,294,069.
    • Of this amount, 55% (or $6,244,262) is spent on consortial digital scholarly resources for a fixed term of generally 2-4 years (depends on license agreement). These are typically journal collections or databases bought via collective purchasing
    • Therefore $5,049,807 is spent on locally purchased digital resources via subscription (serials, databases, etc.).
    • Books and other one-time purchases:  $3,758,640.
    • In 2015/16, a one-time allocation of $500,000 was granted which allowed the Library to renew the Wiley journals package.
    • In 2016/17 the library received $550K to support acquisition of French language books.

Cost-reduction strategy

  • Assess all of our resources in relation to their impact on research;
  • Minimize the impact on the university’s strategic areas of development in research: Canada and the World; Health; eSociety; Molecular and Environmental Sciences;            
  • Reduce the amount we spend on books as necessary, while ensuring strong collections in both French and English;
  • Cancel those databases that do not provide full-text resources (i.e. abstract and index only databases);
  • Cancel those serials based on use impact and ranking as necessary.
  • Assess the ‘Big Deal’ agreements as they come up for renewal.

Other considerations 

This fall, the University will participate in a national survey and analysis, with 26 academic libraries, being coordinated by the Canadian Research Knowledge Network and carried out by Vincent Larivière, Chaire de recherche du Canada sur les transformations de la communication savant, Université de Montréal. The result of this survey, along with the results of the March 2016 survey, will provide detailed information about serial collections at our University and allow comparison with other institutions participating.

In the Ithaka Faculty Survey that was conducted in 2014, when asked how important it was to them that the library pays for resources they need, from academic journals to books to electronic databases, 91.3% of respondents selected very important or extremely important.

We will also need to consider alternate models of acquisition such as DDA (demand-driven acquisitions) for new monographs in order to address our fiscal reality. This would mean cancelling our comprehensive front-list agreements for new books with major scholarly publishers and implementing a spending cap to save money. This is another dimension of risk that is implied by the fiscal constraint that we are under. As well, we are assuming that the cancelled titles will be available by other means, and we can expect significant level of frustration from users who are required to use Interlibrary Loans for their research articles. 


Last year the Library made the largest cuts to the collections budget in a single year in the history of the University, cutting $1.2M (and some 8K journal titles) from the collections budget, by cancelling a significant number of low and medium value resources, thus minimizing the negative impact on faculty and students. This year to meet the budget cut target of $1.927M, the low and medium resources are gone and we are left with the necessity to cut high value resources (8K plus journal titles, total number yet to be finalized) that will have a major negative impact on our community.  We have a number of multi-year licences, Elsevier for example, that are not eligible to be cut this year, but will come up for renewal in 2016/17 and 2017/18. 

If the protection of the collections budget, in terms of annual cost-of-living increases, and protection from across-the board budget cuts, is not reinstated and university support to mitigate the impact of US currency fluctuations, are not put in place, as recommended in the Report of the Library Strategic External Evaluation, we can expect substantial additional cancellations that will further jeopardize our ability to support research and teaching at the University and will have a negative impact on the University’s ability to recruit and retain the best researchers and graduate students.


While the uOttawa Library’s Collections ranked 5th in the country in 2014-15, we expect to drop up to 3 positions, just ahead of Laval, as a result of two years of fiscal restraint.  The University should work with the Library to develop a stainable model of funding that supports the research goals of the university and the library, and allows uOttawa to remain competitive with other Canadian research universities, most of which have received one-time funding to cover off the drop in the Canadian dollar.

In the words of a faculty member who responded to our recent survey, “A university is only as good as its resources; if we weaken this foundation, it will spell our irrelevance as a serious player.” 

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