Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Breakout - Evaluating e-content Lots of numbers and then decide.

Monique Dikboom
Licence Manager, Maastricht University Library

The Netherlands 

  • A lot of people in small flat country (approximately 17 million people)
  • Every Sunday 3.7 million people watch Boer Zoekt Vrouw (which roughly translate to “Farmer Wants a Wife”)
  • Netherlands has a king and a queen
  • Netherlands has 13 universities and a Royal Library.


  • Is in the deep south of Netherlands
  • Has a population of 121,905 people
  • The Comte d'Artagnan (Wikipedia) died at the siege of Maastrich
  • Once a year they hold a for day carnival
  • Maastricht is the home of Andr√© Rieu

Maastricht University

Was founded in 1976 in 2 locations.  It has 6 faculties, 15,000 students (half are foreign students and 3,500 staff

Maastricht University collaborates with 2 hospitals and looks after the digital library  for two hospitals and the Open University of the Netherlands.

The teaching style for Maastricht is student-oriented problem based learning, meaning students have to;
  • solve problems themselves
  • define and analyse problems
  • look for additional information (library!)
  • then report and synthesise this information.
This means the library is central to this teaching activity and must be flexible as a learning resource centre.
  • must be large diversity of study rooms
  • flexible layouts and ergonomic workplace so can adjust space as they need it
  • integrated computer systems for students to use.

Maastricht’s subscriptions organisation…

…Is comparable to comparable to most university libraries, with a combination of packs (local and consortium deals; 25,000 titles), individual titles (directly from publishers; 100 titles), hard copies (via subscription agents; 300 titles)

Negotiating the big deals

A special negotiation team was pulled together to negotiate big deals (most recently 5big deals with Elsevier, Springer, Wiley, Sage and OUP).

The Minister for Education, Culture and Science made a strong statement for OA, so these negotiations were used for transition towards OA, with the emphasis being on significant cost for publishing not reading fees.   Not all publisher are ready for a new model, and some of the discussions were put on hold.

They did reach an agreement with Springer so that researchers at Dutch institutions can publishing in 1,500 journals, without extra cost and no limitation.   The payment basis is for publication, not reading.

Meanwhile in the library…

...Investigation! The library wants to give good advice to the faculty on the value of the big deal.  What is in it for Maastricht?

Evaluating value would take a lot of manual data work, so the library decided to take this process a step further and built a tool for doing this.

They decided on the key data for evaluation:
  •  List of core titles for each faculty (direct feedback from faculty)
  • Counter compliant usage reports
  • What’s in the deal now, compared with usage
  • What will be in it next year (often a problem, since title lists are often only known at the end of negotiation)
  • Journal Impact Factors
  • Journal list prices
 The needed to check and validate each each parameter, to make sure the process was kept clear and simple, but was still able to give an overview of value.

The IT Deparment made tool that used the SQL server, so that the report can be generated whenever they wanted it.

The report told them….

…a lot!
  • number of core titles in a deal
  • how many titles have Impact Factors
  • number of successful downloads to core titles
  • number of successful downloads to the other titles
  • the comparative list prices of the individual titles
 The report helped evaluate the cost of the deal and what the difference would be if they didn’t have the big deal.

They found out that they are paying 40% less via the big deal
The extra titles are being used very well, so the overall package is great value.

Up until now they have decided to renew, but they don’t know what will happen in the future, especially with prices increasing on an annual basis.  Review and negotiation will be needed, and the library can take the report, advise the faculty and work to get the best from their existing budgets.   

A different approach for individual titles 

Prices can go up dramatically (can be 30% increase) with no notification, so they need to stay in control.

The library’s action was to approach every publisher whose increase was over 5% to get reasons why. 
And they received some fantastic reasons, including:
  • more pages/content (but we didn’t ask for that)
  • we didn’t increase for years, so be happy
  • keep up with other publishers
  • the rise of the cost of publishing
  • we don’t charge euro any more GBP
  • rise of postal costs (for e-journals?)
  • rise of price of kerosene (!?!)

The library also:
  • talked to collection mangers to see what else can be cancelled
  • looked at the most expensive subs, to see if really need them
  • took a proactive approach in September and asked publishers for the new price lists (mostly received in December, which is too late).

There are some barriers to the above approach

  • no possibility of cancelling core title
  • most small publishers didn’t have room for negotiation themselves
  • prices for following year often not set before November/December
  • averse exchange rate can cause problems

But if you want to keep hold of expenses, communication is key:
  • talk to your suppliers and tell them what’s going on in your library
  • inform your payers and decision makers and ask for their commitment
  • ensure you have close cooperation with other libraries and licencing bureaus.

And don’t be afraid to cancel.

Q&A session

Q: How do you handle interdisciplinary recharge to faculties?
Every faculty puts funds into a central pot and content is paid for centrally.  The library also looks at subjects in big deals and faculties pay likewise.

Q: How do you come up with core titles?
Core title lists are made by faculty themselves and the library compares that list with the big deals.  If they are not in the deal, a separate subscription is made.

Q: If the price of big deals increase, or library budgets decrease, what is the impact on your subscriptions with small publishers?
Until now, the library has not had to sacrifice any individual titles, but they will be first to be cancelled.  The library will try to still subscribe, but will need to look for other ways to pay for them.

Q:Does this program and approach feed into consortium decisions?
It is only used by Maastricht now.  In some cases we have to join all but every university can decided if they want to join in.

Q: How do you build and maintain the data for the lists
The library manually collects and maintains the lists, but put it through the SQL server.  It takes a lot less time than it used to.  It took 2 weeks to make the tool, and now the evaluation takes approx. 2 hours.

Q: Is the tool open source? 
Not up to now, and this is the first time Maastricht has spoken about it.

Q: Do you look at turnaway/denial data?
The library only looks at what they have access to.

Q: What is the formula for Impact Factor and the importance of core titles?
Impact Factor is not very important in the result.  The most important data is usage, and the price you would pay for those core titles, if you didn’t pay the deal.

Q: What’s the alternative, if you don’t renew a big deal?
Subscribing to individual titles, or not subscribing at all.  If there is no money, there is no other choice.

Q: Offsetting APCs is an issue for UK?  Is Maastricht doing this?
This is new for Maastricht, but we are making an effort to make this possible due to the mandate.

Q: Is there any preordained criteria for renewing a big deal? What does the data show you?  Maastricht needs to ensure funds are available for the term of the agreement.  The data currently shows that big deals are still better value than individual subscriptions.
Q: Do you evaluate new titles against existing holdings?  What is your approach?
Trials, researcher requests, and then looking for budget.

Q: Q: if you can only get usage for what you already have, so how can you compare for new titles, eg.  Do you look at references that your researchers have made?
This project can can snowball in terms of complexity, so that’s why the original parameters.

Q: Are you doing any other work to contextualise? For example on what people are doing with that work. A professor is doing work on a high value project.  The title costs £n. The usage is low but has a huge impact on business.
If they are really needed, Maastricht will subscribe.  Numbers are an indication but we need to see them in context.

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