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University Library System Unbundling 'Big Deals'

Why unbundle

For over a decade, the Wayne State University Library System (ULS), like many academic libraries across the US, have invested in what is known as ‘Big Deal’ journals packages with publishers such as Elsevier, Wiley and Taylor & Francis, to name a few. For the last decade the ULS has subscribed to over 3,000 electronic journals through Elsevier’s Sciencedirect ‘Big Deal’ bundle.  This approach to Collection Development is known as Just in Case, where large bundles of tiles were purchased just in case they were needed.  The Just in Case approach has resulted in a significant portion of the libraries material budget being allocated solely to the maintenance of these ‘Big Deals’.  Changing our purchasing model will allow us to deliver access to requested materials just in time, when they are needed.

Over the next several years the ULS will transition to a Just in Time model.  Whereby, instead of having significant resources allocated to multi-year journal subscriptions the ULS will move towards a journal a-la-carte model that allows greater flexibility with the materials budget without sacrificing much needed access to research resources.  To support this endeavor the ULS has opted to unbundle the Elsevier Sciencedirect subscription at the end of its current contract period in December of 2019.  This model will provide the ULS with greater flexibility to align its material budget to meet current research needs of our users and to invest in future research trends. 

Like many higher education institutions, the ULS has begun to question whether our large investment in these resources is a viable subscription model and truly provides the value-added resources to our community. Recently, the University of California System, as well as the Max Planck Society of Germany, opted not to renew any of their agreements with Elsevier.  Additionally, Florida State and Louisiana State University both decided to reduce the size of their Sciencedirect journal access with Elsevier.

The ULS continues to provide excellent Interlibrary Loan services and we are confident we can supply content that is necessary for the research needs of the campus.  In many cases, journal articles can be supplied within hours of the request. There is never a cost to the researcher or the department for obtaining materials through Interlibrary Loan and most articles are delivered in less than 24 hours. 

The ULS has invested in electronic backfiles of historic material such as Lancet, Sage, IEEE, New England Journal of Medicine and several JAMA titles to name a few, and we will retain this access in perpetuity.  The ULS also has several platforms that provide indexing of resources to discover recent publications and if we do not have full-text access to discovered titles, with just two clicks in the database, a request can be made for the article, at no cost to the researcher.    

Finally, as we move forward with changing our access model, we will continuously monitor requests for articles from current publications that we do not subscribe to and we will make future purchase decisions based on continued needs.   We will maintain close communication with faculty through our library department liaisons for working with our new Collection Development model and for acquiring needed research materials.

Please forward this information to your department chairs or colleagues so that they are aware of the services the library will be providing.

If you have additional questions please contact Mike Hawthorne