Academic library spending on e-serials: A quick-and-dirty note

Karen Harker has a thoughtful post, “Analyzing changes to journal prices over time,” at her Being and Librarianship blog, discussing an article from an AAP person claiming that library serials prices aren’t really increasing all that much–and using ARL figures to make that claim.

I’m not going to analyze the claim and the figures: I lack the expertise, time and authority to do so meaningfully. Harker raises a number of excellent questions, ones that deserve digging into by those in a position to do so.

But I thought I’d take one quick look at, well, not 20 years of change over 120-odd large academic libraries–but two years of change over essentially all the academic libraries in the U.S.–as reported in the NCES biennial survey.

This is just a quick-and-dirty note. I just imported the 2010 and 2008 databases into Excel and did Autosums on the entire columns for print serials expenditures and e-serials expenditures (which notably omit one-time backfile purchases).

The key points in what I found:

  • Between 2008 and 2010, total print serials expenditures increased by 4.7% (which is still above inflation, which apparently was 1.28% for the two years).
  • During that same time period, total electronic serials expenditures increased by 24.3%.
  • TWENTY-FOUR POINT THREE PERCENT: Just under 25%. In two years. Years with very low inflation.
  • Putting that in dollars, e-serials took $245 million more out of academic library budgets in 2010 than they did in 2008.

Again, those are quick-and-dirty figures: I spent maybe 10 minutes putting them together.

(Separately, I’m working on a Cites & Insights piece on which academic libraries have increasing rather than decreasing circulation–and there are quite a few of them that do. If somebody says “circulation is falling at all academic libraries,” they’re not only wrong, they’re seriously wrong. You’ll have to wait for the March C&I for details.. Oh, and by the way, now would be a really good time to go to C&I and contribute something to keep it going, either in HTML form or in general.)

Oh, and hat-tip to Stephen Francouer for pointing to the post…and I’ve now subscribed to Harker’s blog.

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