Library Materials: Print
The results of the economic crisis in scholarly publishing were documented statistically in 1992 in University Libraries and Scholarly Communication. Some of the principal findings included the fact that although materials and binding expenditures remain a relatively constant percentage of total library expenses, there has been a hidden, but significant, change in the ratio of books to serials expenses. Although materials expenditures have steadily risen, the average numbers of volumes added to library collections annually continue to decline. Not only are libraries spending more and receiving fewer items in absolute terms, but also libraries are collecting
an ever smaller percentage of the world's annual output of scholarly publications. Since 1974, even increases in university press outputs have outstripped increases in library acquisition rates.
Moreover, the study documents that some of the fields experiencing the greatest increases in their share of the total output are precisely those with the highest average per-volume hardcover prices: business, law, medicine, science, and technology. According to the report, science had the highest average prices; social sciences and business experienced price increase rates closer to the GNP deflator (p. xix).
Another finding was that serials prices consistently increase faster than general inflation. Serials had an overall annual inflation rate of more than 11% from 1986 to 1990. Prices of scientific and technical journals rose at the highest rates (13.5% per year, on average, from 1970 to 1990), and the most expensive serials experienced the largest relative price increases. In contrast, book prices inflated at 7.2% per year, while the general inflation rate averaged approximately 6.1%. In some institutions, science journals could comprise only 29% of the total number of journal subscriptions but consumed 65% of the serials budget. According to the Mellon report, "three European commercial publishers (Elsevier, Pergamon, and Springer ...) accounted for 43% of the increase in serials expenditures at one university between 1986 and 1987" (p. xxi). The report does not introduce the question of the extent to which these inflation rates in the prices of scientific journals reflect increasing costs of production, expansion in content, price gouging, or the market value of the information itself-a value that might extend well beyond the university.
Brian Hawkins's 1996 study of library acquisition budgets of 89 schools finds that although budgets nearly tripled from 1981 to 1995 and increased by an average of 82% when corrected for inflation using the Consumer Price Index, the average library in the study lost 38% of its buying power. In the 15 years covered by his study, the inflation rate for acquisitions was consistently in the midteens. Confirming the Mellon study, he finds that the costs of some science journals increase more than 20% per year. He also notes that the trend line for average increases in library acquisition budgets is downward, accelerating the rate of decline in volumes added to collections.
Harrassowitz regularly alerts libraries to subscription pricing information so that its customers can plan in advance to adjust purchasing patterns to stay within budget. In November 1996, Harrassowitz provided firm 1997-98 subscription pricing for six publishers publishing the majority of the STM (science, technology, and medicine) journals. The announced price increases ranged from 1.2% to 22%, averaging 11%. According to Harrassowitz's analysis, libraries categorized as "General Academic/including Sci-Tech" could expect average price increases from the six publishers of almost 14%.
Peter Brueggeman from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) Library at UCSD has discussed the problem from the perspective of a science li-
brary. During the five-year period from 1992 to 1996, journal subscription costs at SIO rose 57% but the recurring collections budget increased 2.3%. Brueggeman singles out Elsevier and Pergamon for particular analysis: "Elsevier titles had a 28% increase between 1995 and 1996 and a 32% increase between 1992 and 1993. Pergamon titles had a 29% price increase between 1995 and 1996 and a 17% price increase between 1992 and 1993."
Various authors have demonstrated that not only do the most expensive journals experience the highest rates of inflation, but they are also among the most used. Chrzastowski and Olesko found that over a period of eight years, the cost of acquiring the ten most used chemistry journals increased 159% compared to an increase of 137% for the 100 most used journals. During the same period, usage of the top ten journals increased 60% compared to an increase of 41% for the top 100 journals.
Library budgets that inflate more slowly than the rate of inflation for scholarly journals will cause a steady decline in the number of titles held in each library. Because libraries generally cancel journals on the basis of use, high-use, high-inflating titles may be protected. This protection results in a gradual homogenization of collections among libraries. Lesser-used titles, many with low prices and low inflation rates, will be crowded out faster than the general rate of decline in library subscriptions.
Figure 18.1 illustrates a hypothetical scenario. This scenario assumes that the collections budget is inflated by 4% per year. However, the average rate of inflation in the cost of scholarly publications is greater. The graph shows that if science journals, because they demonstrate high usage patterns, are canceled more slowly than other titles, then science journals will eventually crowd out other journals. In the example, the budget for science journals is allowed to inflate at approximately 8% per year (slightly less than one-half the actual inflation rate, but twice the rate of inflation in the total serials budget). Other, lesser-used journals, with lower subscription prices and lower rates of inflation, therefore must be canceled more rapidly in order for the collections budget to be balanced. Within a few years, the crowding-out effect from protection of high-use/high-price/high-inflation journals is quite noticeable. While no particular library may implement a budget strategy exactly like that depicted, all libraries tend to retain subscriptions to the highest use journals and to cancel first the lesser-used journals. Although the curve may change as the time line lengthens or shortens, the eventual result will be similar to that shown.