Managing the impact of a weak Canadian dollar: Acquisitions & serials review for cost reductions

Published on December 18, 2015

Written by:  Acquisitions Budget Strategies Working Group

The vast majority of Western Libraries’ acquisitions of journals, monographs and other materials are purchased from providers in American dollars. The drastic decline in the value of the Canadian dollar against the US dollar, along with an ongoing increase in the costs of scholarly publications (exceeding inflation), has dramatically impacted the purchasing power of the Western Libraries acquisitions budget.  For example, each cent in the drop of the value of the Canadian dollar increases the annual cost of subscriptions to Western by $100,000 and the value of the dollar against US currency has dropped to 71.8 cents as of December 18, 2015.  This leaves us with a significant forecasted budget deficit. 

Consequently, Western Libraries must reduce its collections expenditures during 2015 / 2016 and 2016 / 2017 through both short and long-term strategies.  In doing so, we have given careful consideration to the needs of Western’s academic community and have taken steps to mitigate the impact in the value of the Canadian dollar and inflationary increases to publication prices.  For more information, please see our previous news item.

Actions to date

Western Libraries achieved $815k in short-term savings by freezing new serials subscriptions, reducing book purchases, and identifying serials for cancellation that will have relatively low impact on most of our students and researchers.  It is important to note that the serials cancellations identified so far only accounted for $315k and the balance of the short-term savings were achieved through funds available for one-time only. 

The titles were identified primarily based on low use and duplication but took into account other criteria as listed below. The list of cancelled titles can be viewed here. Many of the titles identified for cancellation in this initial round will not cease until the new subscription year begins in 2016 and many titles will continue to be available through access via other sources.

Cancellations are based on the following information and intended to have the least possible impact on the work of faculty and students:

  • Duplication of print when available online;
  • Duplication of online access through multiple sources;
  • Low demonstrated demand based on usage data;
  • Not required for discipline specific research or teaching needs;
  • Low impact journal (based on Journal Citation Reports or SCImago Journal Rank);
  • High cost per use;
  • Western researchers rarely or never publish in the journal;
  • Limited citations by Western researchers;
  • Rate of publication cost increases that far exceed the rate of inflation;
  • Problematic licensing terms (e.g. no remote access, unable to use on course management system);
  • Embargo periods in databases, i.e. a length of time during which the current content is not available;
  • Full-text access preferred to abstracting & indexing resources, as per disciplinary practices;
  • Issues with discoverability through catalogue and or discovery layer (e.g. provision of analytics, indexing in Summon, poor MARC record quality)

Next Steps

Purchase restrictions will continue for this fiscal year and into 2016 / 2017 as Western Libraries adapts to the new budget reality. As part of a long-term budget strategy, Western Libraries will carefully review all book, serial and database expenditures based on the criteria listed above to find additional ongoing savings to meet budget parameters, taking into account inflationary increases to publication prices and the exchange rate.

Subject librarians will identify resources for prospective cancellation in January – March.  Lists of resources identified for cancellation will be shared along with the supporting evidence. Effects of the cancellations will be delayed until the current subscription period ends.

Throughout this process librarians will consult researchers and instructors in order to minimize the impact on research and teaching. Feedback will be requested on lists of titles that are under consideration for cancellation.

Please contact Catherine Steeves (Vice Provost and Chief Librarian) or Harriet Rykse (Acting Assistant University Librarian – Information Resources and Access) with any questions regarding this process.  For specific questions about how this will affect your discipline, please contact us.