Making library subscription costs transparent

Published on May 28, 2019

Western Libraries has made 2018-2019 journal and database prices public.

Although students and faculty use library resources daily, the cost may surprise them. For example, our most expensive platform cost us over $2.5 million this year. By publishing our prices, we hope to draw awareness to the high cost of subscriptions.

A library at a large university like Western needs to subscribe to a wide range of journals. Researchers in many different fields need access to the latest articles in top journals and costs quickly add up. We strive to ensure a high level of access; however, long-term trends of rising journal costs can make this challenging.

Sharing our costs reflects Western’s commitment to collaboration and accountability. Western is a publicly funded institution. We recognize it’s in the public’s interest that we’re as transparent with our prices as possible.

Western is the latest institution to join the trend of publishing the cost of journals. Cornell University, Simon Fraser University, and University of Alberta all publish their annual serial costs. Many members of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL), including Western Libraries, have also jointly released their expenditure data for journal and database subscriptions licensed through the Canadian Research Knowledge Network (CRKN) consortium. These initiatives align with the recommendation in the CARL Scholarly Communications Roadmap which identified “a need for collective action toward greater transparency.”

We hope making our costs public will help other university libraries negotiate fair deals and inspire faculty to explore more sustainable publishing models. This information will also help inform the work of the Provost’s Taskforce on Open Access and Scholarly Communication – a cross-campus initiative to engage in dialogue about the future of scholarly publishing– lead by our Vice-Provost and Chief Librarian, Catherine Steeves.

Read more about licensing cost