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Scholarly journals cost library

January 27, 2011

Although the MSU library budget increased about 32 percent since the 2000-01 academic year, the cost of scholarly publications is rising at far higher rates, said Steven Sowards, associate director of collections of the Main Library.

“For as long as I’ve been a librarian — which has been more than 20 years — the price of journals (and) the overall expenditure for journals has been going up faster than (the budget),” he said. “It’s been a challenge.”

More than half of the library materials budget is spent buying subscriptions for scholarly publications, Sowards said.

“We spend about $7 million (to) $8 million a year on these subscriptions,” he said.

About $24 million has been allocated for the library’s overall budget for the 2010-11 academic year. The total library budget for supplies, services and equipment for the 2010-11 academic year is about $14 million.

Despite the cost of publications, academic community members rely on them.

University administrators encourage professors to publish in professional journals to establish themselves in their field, psychology professor Bill Davidson said. Professors either “publish or perish,” he said.

“One of the criteria for whether you are being an active, high-quality contributing scientist is whether your work is being published in a (scholarly journal),” he said.

Up-to-date scholarly magazines are important resources for the MSU community members, Sowards said.

“The scholarly journals are the place where the latest scientific and scholarly findings are published,” he said. “It (is) important not only for students but for faculty and researchers.”

Knowing previous academic work also is necessary in creating new knowledge, said Clifford Haka, the director of libraries.

“Since we are a research institution, we need to get the research journals in a wide variety of fields so MSU workers in those fields can be aware of what’s out there and what has been done before,” he said.

Publishing information in open-access journals, which provide free information to the public, is a way faculty members can help decrease the cost of buying scholarly magazines, Haka said.

However, open-access journals, which often are published online, still incur costs of publication, he said. Instead of requiring payment from users, open-access journals charge contributing faculty members a fee to publish their information, he said.

The library helps professors and other faculty members pay to publish in these journals, but there still is not enough openly available information to stop buying subscriptions to more expensive publications, Haka said.

“That hasn’t gotten to be robust enough yet so that we can cancel some of those high-cost journals,” he said.

Undergraduates and some graduate students have the option to publish research in free university publications, such as Red Cedar Undergraduate Research, or ReCUR.

“I think we just want it to be widely available, and we want students to be able to take it home and have a copy of it in their portfolio,” said Katie McArdle, student managing editor of ReCUR and a digital rhetoric and professional writing sophomore. “We do it as a complimentary (service).”

For faculty members looking to publish their research, the challenge of publishing in journals and affording subscriptions will take more time to solve, Haka said.

“There are no easy solutions, (but using open-access journals) is a potential solution; it is certainly feasible,” Haka said.

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