JMU Signs a New One-year Agreement With Elsevier

Posted on: January 19, 2021

JMU recently completed contract negotiations with Elsevier, one of the world’s largest and most profitable academic publishers. As part of a coalition of public doctoral institutions in Virginia (including the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth University, George Mason University, Old Dominion University, and William & Mary), the JMU Libraries negotiated a new, one-year 2021 agreement addressing our priorities of affordability, accessibility, and equity. VRL library logos

As we have shared throughout the year, our Virginia Research Libraries (VRL) coalition has been moving toward a new, more sustainable arrangement with Elsevier, anticipated to begin in 2022. Due to the pandemic’s negative effect on operating budgets, we accelerated this process, and asked to renegotiate the last year of our current, five-year contract. This final year would have cost approximately $10 million across the Commonwealth of Virginia, and nearly a half million dollars at JMU.

What has changed?

With our revised contract, we have realized much-needed cost savings and successfully unbundled the “Big Deal” of Elsevier’s “Freedom Collection,” a package of journals that included many unwanted titles. We now subscribe only to the Elsevier journals that our campus most frequently needs and uses.

What does this mean for you?

You still have access to what you need for your research, teaching, and learning. Subscriptions are just one way to access research. We are committed to helping you find the materials you need, whether through Interlibrary Loan, existing journal subscriptions and archived content, open access journals and repositories, or other legal means of access

Recently, Interlibrary Loan has become even faster, thanks to funding from the Virtual Library of Virginia (VIVA). We have also made great improvements to Library Search, our JMU Libraries catalog, including this summer’s migration to a new platform, and the recent addition of a feature that provides one-click PDF download and discovery of open access content.

Here’s how you can access any materials that are not covered by JMU’s subscriptions. Please contact your liaison librarian or Ask the Library if you have questions or need help.

Benefits of the new agreement

Cost savings: Most of the libraries in the VRL coalition are experiencing budget shortfalls in 2021 and are projecting serious budget constraints for 2022. Each institution involved reduced its overall expenditure for the year, balancing its COVID-distressed budget for 2021. 

Tailored content: This new agreement frees us from the “Big Deal” in favor of tailored subscriptions that include the Elsevier journals that are consistently used by our researchers. The VRL libraries chose to subscribe to publications based on download data, article citations by institutional authors, open access availability, articles published by institutional authors, and faculty and liaison librarian input. We also analyzed the projected costs of alternative access to those publications. This work is part of a longer-term effort to realign investments in favor of tools and resources that are more affordable, equitable, and sustainable. It also allows us to build our collections in collaboration, and from a more diverse group of publishers that better support faculty interests and the evolving needs of our universities.

Improved contract provisions: The new Elsevier agreement improves user privacy provisions and clarifies our researchers’ rights to perform text mining and data mining on these scholarly materials. We will continue to advocate for progressive approaches in future vendor contracts.

What happens next?

We will be back at the Elsevier negotiating table soon to pen a longer-term agreement alongside the other libraries in our coalition. VRL and the JMU Libraries will also work with other big publishers in the coming years to take similar steps toward a more sustainable scholarly communications ecosystem. We will keep carefully watching how online journals and databases are used at JMU, and will apply that knowledge to inform next year’s negotiations.

Visit this website or contact your liaison librarian to share your views and learn more.

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