NS27.2 RESPONSE TO AQUEDUCT ACTION AGENDA
Marcia Tuttle, TUTTLE@UNC.BITNET.
This issue of the newsletter is dedicated to responses to the Aqueduct Action Agenda, printed in NS 24. The messages printed below have come directly to me, to others of the Aqueduct participants, and to SERIALST. Thanks to all of you who have responded electronically and in person. Danny Jones has just completed a desktop publishing copy of the agenda, and it will be available at various meetings throughout the spring and summer. We all have made a fine start to acting on the points of the agenda, and all indications are that the action is building. On behalf of the retreat participants, thank you for taking up the challenge of the action agenda.
NS27.2 RESPONSE TO AQUEDUCT ACTION AGENDA
>From Tony Stankus, Science Librarian, College of the Holy Cross, LIB_STANKUS@HLYCROSS.BITNET.
I think two important things may have been left out of the otherwise excellent plan of action proposed.
1. Especially in light of recent scandals, serials librarians, with the support of their directors and of grantswinning faculty, should make sure that the library and its serials budget get their fair share of the often multimillion dollar overhead tacked onto grants money coming into the university.
2. In particular, scientists, whose grants generally constitute the overwhelming share of university grants income, should be reassured that their competitively won monies go to the serials that they both need and which are often those most bitterly complained about by serials librarians, and are not used to support other academic departments' collections. It is one thing to make sure that scientific grants monies are not used for the university's president's yacht, but is entirely another one to make sure that scientific grants money is not used to fund rare books, alternative lifestyles collections, area studies, etc., beyond a modest and proportional contribution as expected from each department. My suspicion is that even with some of the outrageous sums charged for some scientific serials, scientists are still in "net balance" when it is considered that even at a modest university they bring in several tens of millions of which the library ought to be keeping a few for their journals.
>From Sydney Pierce, University of Oklahoma, via Ann O'Neill, University of North Carolina School of Information and Library Science, ONEIA.ILS@mhs.unc.edu.
I especially like the idea of the 100 benchmark titles -- getting some info out in the open. I'm still a little troubled by the "critical mass" comment, because I'm not sure what is meant -- the number of subscriptions to an individual journal held by libraries in general (so critical mass is a sufficient number of sources from which to get copies) or the number of journals to which an individual library subscribes (so critical mass is having enough for users to do their work). I suspect it's the former, but maybe not. The idea of going after the high-priced journals is a good one, and the only thing I think the statement overlooks is the degree to which libraries have bought into the idea that heavy journal use by users means they need a large journal collection, without considering the degree to which this heavy use may be concentrated on relatively few titles. I still feel that most journal lists would be the better for some pruning of unused titles. Since the feeling that bigger is better in library journal collections is widespread not only among faculty but among librarians (an important measure in RLG Conspectus evaluations, for example), we go after outrageously priced titles but ignore more modestly priced junk.
Which is perhaps less true of some of the libraries participating (which may have done use studies of journals), but ought to be said to the rest of the world as an additional point.
Factors in the use vs. access debate that may nor may not be under consideration here include the user's tendency to use what's there, and the legal restrictions (copyright) on the number of ILL requests for recent articles for the same title. It's the users that worry me most. We not only need to work out access but also need to put more emphasis on educating users about means of access available. I suspect a majority of the users of most libraries don't even know ILL exists as a general possibility, much less the specific access agreements that have been worked out, allegedly to meet their needs.
But the above of course isn't the fault of acquisitions librarians, who normally perform their own roles in the provision of access to material admirably well. Provision of access as a substitute for buying the material is most cost-effective when users are kept in the dark (so the system isn't burdened by too many actual requests for service). And keeping people in the dark is something libraries (especially academic ones, I am tempted to add, but as you know I'm still a public librarian at heart) are really good at.
Well, one of the nicest things about anything that can be done to get prices down is that it means more materials can be made available to more users on-site, where they'll actually be used.
>From Julie Gammon, University of Akron, R1JAG@AKRONVM.BITNET.
Congrats for getting the revolution started with the Aqueduct Action Agenda! We needed some leadership and you certainly got a wonderful group of all the serial "biggies" together to get the revolution started. Is there any formal plan of where to take this after the initial agenda; or are we supposed to attack this as individuals? I was thinking that NASIG might be the natural forum here, of course.
>From Fred Friend, University College London Library, email@example.com.
In my opinion the Aqueduct Action Agenda is fine as far as it goes. It is sensible and practical. I would, however, like to see reference to more positive measures for co-operation with publishers and subscription agents to bring about changes. I have been as critical of publishers as anybody but some of them are taking our concerns seriously and I believe that we should encourage them in trials of electronic publication, particularly as such trials involve publishers in heavy expense. I know they are watching their own interests but in some aspects of electronic publication their interests may also be ours.
Also we can have common cause with the subscription agents on matters such as single article document delivery. Sitting on a panel at the UK Serials Group Conference in Edinburgh with Dan Tonkery of Readmore I found myself agreeing with a good deal of what he said. I know that in the US you have been very critical of your subscription agents but as with publishers there is no reason why criticism should not be combined with more positive action in the Aqueduct Action Agenda.
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>From Donna Padgett Lively, University of Texas, Arlington, LIVELY@LIBRARY.UTA.EDU.
Action number 13 interests us here at the University of Texas at Arlington Libraries. However, how does one go about verifing "the accuracy of vendor service charges?" That is, what measure or criteria do we use to judge whether or not a "service charge" is accurate or inaccurate? Do we ask the vendor what their particular policies are or is there a universal and accepted standard that should be applied to service charges? We would greatly appreciate enlightenment on this point.
>From Jane L. Thompson, National Library of Medicine, jlt@NLM.NIH.GOV.
You can begin by asking your vendor exactly how they bill their service charges; sometimes a service fee is built into the subcription price of a particular journal, and a separate service charge shows up as part of the total invoice in addition. I would advise talking with the vendor before making any assumptions. Letting them know that you are concerned about how your money is spent and what you are paying for makes sense to any business person.
>From Susan Davis, SUNY-Buffalo, UNLSDB@UBVM.BITNET
My interpretation of this point is that libraries are responsible to verify that the service charges on invoices are indeed what the library has been quoted, agreed to contractually, or conform to that particular vendor's service charge policy (ie, some vendors charge a flat percentage to all their customers). It has been reported that vendors may not keep to their service charge agreements, and the only way for the library to verify the charges is to check the service charge amounts billed on invoices.
>From October Ivins, Louisiana State Univeristy, NOTORI@LSUVM.BITNET.
Aqueduct Action Agenda item 13 "Analyze subscription invoices carefully and verify the accuracy of vendor service charges," suggests that serials managers not accept stated service charges on an invoice but do their own analysis. That is, DO THE MATH YOURSELF TO SEE IF THE PERCENTAGE BEING CHARGED IS WHAT IS STATED. Many of us in the group have found discrepancies of the following types: 1) Only the "big" renewal invoice is at the stated charge, but all additional billings are at a much higher rate. 2) Despite the presence of many "no service charge titles" (those for which publishers give vendors a discount on the condition that some of the discount is passed along to customers by prohibiting a service charge) on an invoice, the stated service charge is found to have been calculated for the *entire cost of the invoice*, not just for the eligible titles. 3) Apparent "math errors" when the stated service charge was lower than the actual calculated charge.
Another aspect of this is not just examining invoices for the accuracy of service charges, but being alert for service charge adjustments. Again, many in the group had experienced "service charge erosion" in which the original negotiated service charge was adjusted each year (to a higher rate). Changes in account composition might warrant such adjustment, but serials managers should monitor rates and ask for an explanation when rate changes seem unwarranted.
Please keep in mind that there are other related points in the Agenda. No. 14 addresses the concern that vendors charge different prices for the same titles in some cases. Keep in mind that a moderate service charge on an inflated price may cost more in total than a larger charge on a smaller price.
Many thanks for your excellent question and giving us a chance to expand on the necessarily concise Agenda!
>From James Mouw, University of Chicago, mouw@MIDWAY.UCHICAGO.EDU.
Vendor service charges are not always as straightforward as they might seem on the surface. One good example of this phenomenon is the question at hand. At least one major US vendor supplies information on invoices that leads the customer to believe that no service charge is being assessed on that title due to a discount on that title. However, a careful reading of the vendor's catalog seems to indicate that these no/low service charge titles are factored in when determining the library's _overall_ service charge rate. By this I mean: your service charge is determined through some calculation of title by title service charges, some titles receiving no service charge (and being so indicated on the invoice) while others receive a very high service charge (with no indication on the invoice). The best solution to this seems to be to choose the option where each title's service charge is individually indicated on the invoice. This is my interpretation of the situation.
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>From Marilyn Geller, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, firstname.lastname@example.org.
I wanted to share some thoughts with you about the Aqueduct Agenda. It is a rather impressive collection of ideas. Regarding the first point on the agenda, the issue of access vs. ownership, I'm beginning to see that all the consortia that were created so many years ago to produce union lists might be a wonderful place to create archives of electronic journals for the group. While there are only a handful of electronic journals around, libraries can afford to treat them as "special projects." The time and energy we're willing to put into special projects is great. The time and energy we can afford to put into routine library operations is not nearly as great. In terms of processing an e-journal, we simply don't have the capacity to do all the stripping and reformatting and index building we would like to do for more than the current handful. Consortium archives would mean one group of libraries can have their e-journals processed *once* for the group. This would only work for free electronic journals I think. Publishers in the commercial arena are not likely to allow consortium subscriptions or licensing agreements to such a large group of users, at least not in a way that we could afford, and not without access restrictions. In fact, I think the collective archives model is a wonderful idea for free e-journals, and it might even encourage more of them. But I would be wary of collective archives for commercial e-journals. At the same time, I also think that commercial ventures into electronic publishing may help to legitimize the medium. We need to strengthen the free e-journals that exist already, encourage more of them, create collective archives to support library access, and then work with commercial publishers to contribute in this format.
>From Jim Deffenbaugh, William and Mary, JTDEFF@WMVM1.BITNET.
I was very happy to be able through Acqnet to get a much clearer picture of the conclusions of the Aqueduct group than was available in the CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION, which seemed to give short shrift not only to the action agenda but also to the import which the academic library would like to see in this meeting.
I would like to ask about one small housekeeping question regarding one of the items in the agenda, i.e., the Koepp letter to Pergamon. The group encourages libraries to make frequent use of that letter. We hope to include it in an article in the WILLIAM AND MARY NEWS locally. Such encouragement by the Aqueduct group implies that there is permission of Koepp himself for reproduction of his letter in other publications. Do you know for sure that such permission exists? It would seem probable that it does, since there has been much written on the letter. But we would like to present the text of the letter in toto. And I assume other libraries have similar intentions for it. Does the library community have the general permission of the author to do just that?
[Yes, permission of Mr. Koepp has been granted for general distribution of the letter.-ed.]
>From Mary McLaren, University of Kentucky, MCLAREN@UKCC.uky.edu.
Upon my return from the retreat, I met with the Assistant Director for Collection Development, the Assistant Director for Technical Services (my boss), and the Associate Library Director in a group meeting for a "debriefing" on the weekend's discussions.
Since then, the Assistant Director for Collection Development (Jim Birchfield) and I have met with the Library Director to discuss the Agenda with him individually and to get his view on the issues addressed and his recommendations on actions we should take, and not take, on our particular campus.
Jim and I are on the program of our next Library Faculty Meeting to present the Agenda to our library faculty. We plan to discuss what is already in place here, what we have in mind to implement, and to get their input regarding what is going on in the colleges which their libraries serve (in the case of librarians from the branch and associate libraries), and to get them thinking of how they can become this.
We also have plans to present the Agenda at the Fall meeting of Selectors and Liaisons (which will directly involve faculty) and to see if we can get on the agenda of the next University Senate Library Committee meeting (also in the Fall). They may choose to take it on to the full University Senate, or they may ask us to, (or they may decide to do nothing with it).
One other activity in our "game plan" is to submit a proposal to present a mini-session at the Fall state library association conference to promote the Agenda to a state-wide audience.
Other actions "in the works" are researching whether our institution has a policy on the retention of intellectual property rights, seeing what limitations our University Accounts Payable has on paying invoices which specify "preliminary prices," looking into changing our payment schedules, and gathering price histories of titles we take (by publisher).
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+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ The NEWSLETTER ON SERIALS PRICING ISSUES (ISSN: 1046-3410) is published by the editor as news is available. Editor: Marcia Tuttle, BITNET: TUTTLE@UNC.BITNET; Faxon's DataLinx: TUTTLE; Paper mail: Serials Department, CB #3938 Davis Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill NC 27599-3938; Telephone: 919 962-1067; FAX: 919 962-0484. Editorial Board: Deana Astle (Clemson University), Jerry Curtis (Springer Verlag New York), Charles Hamaker (Louisiana State University), James Mouw (University of Chicago), and Heather Steele (Blackwell's Periodicals Division). The Newsletter is available on BITNET. EBSCO and Readmore Academic customers may receive the Newsletter in paper format from EBSCO and Readmore, respectively. Back issues of the Newsletter are available electronically free of charge through BITNET from the editor.