Association of College & Research Libraries

Making the most of your serials budget

During the past four years of increased serials prices coupled with decreased institutional budgets and statewide funding, the University of Massachusetts Medical Center Library (UMMCL) has been able to increase subscriptions from about 2,100 to 2,500 titles. Two approaches made this 20% increase possible.

First, the policy of using only one subscription agent was evaluated and abandoned. Surveys showed that: 1) some publishers gave 10-55% discounts with no added service charges; 2) some domestic subscription agents added 3.5-4.9% service charges for all titles; 3) some domestic book dealers supplied domestic continuations at 12-15% discounts; and 4) some foreign subscription agents discounted foreign titles 3.5-5.0%. Because of these findings, subscriptions were redirected as follows: foreign serials to a foreign agent; discounted domestic titles to the publishers; non-discounted domestic titles to publishers whose total annual subscription costs exceeded $10,000; domestic continuations to a book dealer; and remaining titles to a domestic agent.

Second, the need for subscriptions by some of the Medical Center’s revenue-generating components was brought to the attention of administrative units. Potential cuts in subscriptions were equated with potential cuts in abilities to provide quality patient care and perform important basic research. As a result, supplemental funds were appropriated in order to maintain and add titles.

Thus, during a period when many academic libraries had to reduce subscription levels, the UMMCL was able to keep pace with the ever-increasing volume of scientific periodical literature. Testifying to the value of this information, the library now supplies over 2,000 interlibrary loan articles per month to its region of the country.—Donald Morton, University of Massachusetts Medical Center Library ■

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