ARL Statement to Scholarly Publishers on the Global Economic Crisis

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ARL issued a statement today on the impacts of the global economic crisis on library budgets and the corresponding effect on subscriptions and purchasing patterns. The statement backs up a similar release by ICOLC last month.

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) has released a statement on the current global economic crisis and its effect on publishing and library subscriptions. The ARL statement, which is aimed at scholarly publishers and vendors, reinforces some of the key points in a recent statement by the International Coalition of Library Consortia (ICOLC) and offers additional observations and recommendations from the perspectives of ARL member libraries.

Large libraries are far from exempt from the consequences of the current global economic crisis. Downturns in state support for public institutions along with substantial losses in endowment funds mean that many ARL member libraries are facing substantial reductions in both operating and materials budgets. In addition to cuts already made, there is strong evidence that most ARL member libraries are preparing for further budget reductions in the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

Like the ICOLC statement, the ARL statement[PDF] includes suggested avenues for publishers (emphasis added).

  • ARL calls on publishers to consider carefully decisions to invest in new products, functionality, and marketing efforts. Any new investments need to be strategic and market sensitive. Publishers should base investments on market research that demonstrates demand and takes into account the ongoing economic situation.
  • Publishers should go further in reducing the need for outright cancellations by undertaking broad efforts to seek new efficiencies that can result in price reductions in the short as well as long term. As libraries scrutinize their own operations, publishers similarly need to critically examine all of their practices and services to identify ways of reducing expenditures and, with them, prices. One obvious opportunity for reducing operating costs to proportionately lower prices is accelerating shifts to electronic-only publication to reduce overhead of print production and handling.
  • ARL reiterates the ICOLC call for price stabilization and advocates real price reductions. Models that stabilize or discount prices for all customers, large and small, are most likely to be attractive in the current economic situation and into the future.
  • Libraries serving research organizations are increasingly receptive to models that provide open access to content published by their affiliated authors in addition to traditional subscription access to titles. This kind of model can form a bridge from subscription models to models incorporating author-side payments.
  • Responsible publishers and vendors should provide real alternatives to multi-year contracts and a range of options for contract terms, as described in the ICOLC statement.
  • Acknowledging the singular budget conditions confronting even the largest libraries, publishers must be open to mid-term renegotiations of contracts.
  • The research library community is also concerned that the suddenness and depth of the global economic crisis substantially increases risk for the loss of important scholarly content. Scholarly publishers share with libraries a stewardship responsibility and should accelerate their commitments to third party archiving services as potential for business failure increases.
  • Inevitably, libraries will be forced to invoke many contract terms in place for providing ongoing access to previously subscribed content after cancellation. ARL calls on publishers to generously and completely facilitate fulfillment of existing contract terms to provide ongoing access to back issues of cancelled subscriptions and to continue to provide these contract terms.
  • Finally, ARL encourages publishers to consult widely with research libraries. Small, not-for-profit publishers are of particular concern, and ARL member libraries welcome conversations regarding new publishing models that can reduce the cost and vulnerability of established publications of high value.

The text was modified to update a link from to on November 13th, 2012.