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Virginia’s research library leaders to host online forum on sustainable scholarship Oct. 2

August 27, 2020
A yellow background with flying books and an open birdcage. Image created by Jeff Bland.

Representatives from the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth University, George Mason University, Old Dominion University, William & Mary, and James Madison University will soon be in joint contract negotiations with Elsevier, the largest science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) scholarly publisher. Working as a group, they will be discussing the unsustainable cost of accessing Elsevier’s academic journals and options to make their public universities’ research more accessible to the public that paid for it. 

To inform members of Virginia’s academic communities--administrators, faculty and librarians-- about the issues and thinking underlying this negotiation process, an open forum is planned for Oct. 2.

The cost of scholarly publishing is an ongoing  issue for academic libraries worldwide. Publishers like Elsevier bundle journals into packages (often called Big Deals). Similar to the way cable television providers sell their packages, these scholarly journal packages limit choices. Access to journals is critical to scholars but few research libraries can afford all the journal subscriptions needed by all of their faculty. Some major university library systems have determined these deals are not sustainable and have canceled contracts with Elsevier. 

The contract between Virginia’s public research universities and Elsevier is up for renewal in December, 2021. Libraries’ leaders are working together to negotiate favorable terms and conditions. The Virginia Research Libraries (VRL) are considering renegotiating the last year of the contract as well as a new contract. Budget reductions at academic libraries throughout the commonwealth related to the pandemic’s economic impact, may become a factor in the timing of this negotiating process. 

On Oct. 2 at 9:30 a.m., the VRL deans will host a Sustainable Scholarship Virtual Forum to share information about the group’s collective priorities concerning equity, accessibility and the soaring costs of bundled scholarly journal packages. The online forum is free and open to librarians, faculty, university administrators, elected officials, donors and anyone interested in scholarly publishing. Registration is open and includes an opportunity to pose questions for the deans’ panel.

Panelists are: 

  • Carrie Cooper, Dean of University Libraries, William & Mary
  • Stuart Frazer, Interim University Librarian, Old Dominion University
  • Teresa L. Knott, Interim Dean of Libraries and University Librarian, VCU
  • Bethany Nowviskie, Dean of Libraries, James Madison University
  • John Unsworth, Dean of Libraries and University Librarian, University of Virginia
  • Tyler Walters, Dean of University Libraries, Virginia Tech
  • John Zenelis, Dean of Libraries and University Librarian, George Mason University

Forum moderator Brandon Butler, the University of Virginia Library’s Director of Information Policy, will orchestrate the discussion and pose questions to the panel. “This is an opportunity to learn more about the upcoming negotiations, the libraries’ priorities surrounding equitable access to scholarship, the impact of changing models on access to research, and why the costs of large bundled journal packages are unsustainable. We will also discuss the possible futures of scholarly publishing,” said Butler. “As a group, we are working together to find the best solutions to continue to be responsible stewards of state funds while providing our faculty  and students with the information resources they need to research, teach and learn.

“The Sustainable Scholarship Virtual Forum offers attendees the opportunity to learn about the current state of the academic/research communication environment from Virginia research library leaders,” said Teresa L. Knott,” interim dean of libraries at VCU. “It creates an opportunity for the research library leaders to learn more about community concerns and hot button issues so we can address those concerns. I’m looking forward to sharing a robust dialog with our community.” 

Registration is open to all interested faculty, staff, students and community members. Attendees can submit questions or discussion topics surrounding negotiation priorities and sustainable scholarship in advance through the forum’s registration site

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