Our collection is assembled by a team of expert librarians who use their knowledge of the scholarly publishing industry and the university community to acquire the most relevant resources within the constraints of our budget. In 2022-23, the library had an annual collection budget of $8.5 million, allocated as follows:
Journals - 55% of collections budget
Databases - 22% of collections budget
Books - 15% of collections budget
Infrastructure (e.g. ScholarsPortal) - 6% of collections budget
Streaming Media - 2% of collections budget
For many years, the collection budget was given small annual increases to partially offset some of the structural challenges described below. In 2021-22 and 2022-23, the budget was flat. For the 2023-24 fiscal year, the budget has been reduced by $500,000.
The ‘Big Deal’
Journal subscriptions are typically sold in bundles colloquially known as the ‘Big Deal’. These bundles contain up to 3,000 journals and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars (e.g. our most expensive big deal with Elsevier cost $740,000 last year). The big deal is a compromise: it saves costs compared with subscribing to individual journals but it also contains a lot of content that we wouldn’t otherwise subscribe to and creates expectations that we subscribe to everything. Additionally, price increases (discussed below) have eroded the value of some of these deals. In Fall 2023, the library determined that cancelling our Springer ‘Big Deal’ package was necessary to achieve financial sustainability in our budget. Learn more about this cancellation decision on the Cancelling Springer Journals page.
Annual Price Increases
Library subscriptions become more expensive every year. Prior to the pandemic, 5+% annual increases were not uncommon. The pandemic saw moderation in price inflation but this year we are seeing a return to pre-pandemic increases.
Mitigation Strategy: Cost containment by consortial procurement either through the Canadian Research Knowledge Network (CRKN), a national consortium of 76 universities, or through the Ontario Council of University Libraries (OCUL), a consortium of all 21 Ontario universities. Pooling funds across institutions gives us better negotiating leverage with publishers.
Most of our resources are priced in US dollars, so fluctuations in the exchange rate have a material impact on our purchasing power. A $0.01 increase in the price of US Dollars equates to a $60,000 decrease in library purchasing power.
Mitigation Strategy: Working with Financial Services, we established a Guaranteed Foreign Exchange (USD) Rate. This rate is reviewed annually and provides predictability over the course of the fiscal year.
Expectations / Requests for New Content
The universe of available resources continues to rapidly expand. Growth in local demand for newer formats like data sets and streaming media is exploding and there is continued demand for new journal subscriptions and digital archives.
Mitigation Strategy: Ongoing review and reprioritization of our expenditures. We have identified and cancelled most low-use content to free up funds for new purchases. With the current budget cut this strategy will have run its course. There are very few low use items left to cancel and we will be cutting more core resources to meet our budget reduction targets.
How does the library make cancellation decisions?
Library cancellation decisions are typically driven by low use, high cost, and the availability of alternative forms of access. We attempt to maintain disciplinary balance so that our cuts don’t disproportionally affect one area or another. In some cases, we will consult with relevant stakeholders outside the library prior to making a cancellation decision but the ultimate decision rests with the library.
What is the library doing to mitigate cancellations?
We have greatly streamlined the process of requesting materials from other libraries. Requesting can be done directly through Omni. Learn more about interlibrary loans.
Nomad is a browser extension that streamlines access to both openly available content and library subscription content from anywhere on the internet. Download LibKey Nomad, or learn more on our Install LibKey Nomad guide.
Springer journal titles buy-back
Coming out of our assessment of the Springer journals cancellation decision, the library has purchased around 60 journal titles that we will continue to subscribe to. We chose titles based on the university’s usage and publishing patterns, and with an eye to ensuring equitable subject coverage across the disciplines. See a full list of retained Springer journal titles.
Products cancelled in 2023/24
Check out our Collections Updates for a list of all additions and cancellations.