Harvard College Library

HCL to Eliminate Duplicate Journal Titles

Jeffrey Horrell, Associate Librarian of Harvard College for Collections, is leading the initiative to eliminate duplicate journal titles in HCL.
August 26, 2003 - As one step in meeting the challenge of closing the gap between relatively flat income and rising expenditures, Harvard College Library (HCL) is taking steps to eliminate duplicate journal titles. Jeffrey Horrell, Associate Librarian of Harvard College for Collections, is leading this initiative and comments on the project below.

Why is HCL focusing on journals as opposed to other materials?
Over the past four years the cost of journal titles in North America has increased over 41%, in Europe 33%, in Asia nearly 22%, and in Australia and New Zealand just over 57%. Increases by subject area in the same period have ranged from 23% for art and architecture titles to nearly 35% for physics and 51% for political science. Journal subscription costs are soaring as an apparent result of mergers, monopolies, and high profit margins in the publishing industry. In addition, many publishers have established complicated, expensive, restrictive pricing structures for licensing journals that are published in both print and electronic format.

The elimination of duplicate journal subscriptions has been identified as one of several areas in which the College Library can realize savings without jeopardizing the integrity of the collections. The Library is facing a projected shortfall of several million dollars over the next two fiscal years.

How have journal prices affected HCL?
HCL has hundreds of duplicate print subscriptions with copies housed in libraries that are all within a short distance of each other; with the escalating price of journals these duplicate subscriptions are costing HCL tens of thousands of dollars. For example, the journal Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, which costs over $70 per copy, is held at Widener and Hilles libraries as well as Gutman and Baker; Africa: Journal of the International Institute of African Languages and Cultures costs $365 per copy and is held at Widener, Tozzer, and Hilles; Social Choice and Welfare costs $540 per copy and is held in both Widener and Littauer.

Widener Library's Periodicals Reading Room and adjacent stacks hold approximately 12,000 journal titles.
What is the goal of the initiative?
Our goal is to maintain only one print copy of a title and to eliminate at least $250,000 of duplicate purchases. Over time, the elimination of duplicate journal subscriptions will result in additional savings because extra copies will not have to be checked-in, shelved and re-shelved, bound, or stored and retrieved from the Harvard Depository. In this way, the Library continues to fulfill its mission to acquire and provide access to intellectual content and at the same time conserves resources.

How will HCL implement the initiative?
An initial task group will be convened. They will identify duplicate titles within the HCL collection and devise a plan for reducing subscriptions and for housing and archiving the copy that remains. The group will have to pay careful attention to our electronic licensing agreements because the terms will vary from title to title.

The task group will also be responsible for establishing a system to keep other Harvard libraries apprised of the duplicate holdings HCL is eliminating because a ripple effect can occur. For instance, a library outside HCL may experience an increase in the use of a journal it holds once the title is not available in several HCL locations. In the future we plan to coordinate efforts so that a Harvard library other than HCL might become the "library of record" for titles that HCL used to hold.

This initiative follows from two earlier rounds of duplicate journal cancellations across Harvard libraries this year. The task group that worked on the earlier reductions will be reconstituted for this project. Members include, Jean Lenville, Head of Widener Serials Services Division, Amanda Bowen, Head of Collection Management for Fine Arts Library, Jan Voogd, Head of Collection Management for the Social Sciences Program, and Barbara Halporn, Head of Collection Development in Widener.

Are any journals being eliminated entirely?
In addition to this concerted effort to reduce duplicate subscriptions, there will always be some changes in the titles to which we subscribe. Selectors cancel a handful of journal titles each year, based on use, availability, and cost, as part of our regular collection management efforts.

How will this affect users?
Library users at Harvard will still have access to the breadth of journal titles to which they are accustomed. Because the duplicate journals will not be held in multiple places, some users are bound to miss the convenience of proximity. However, we feel that it is far better to have the titles at fewer locations in order to continue acquiring unique materials needed for Harvard’s academic programs.

This story appears courtesy of the Harvard College Library Communications Office
Copyright © 2004 President and Fellows of Harvard College