Journal and Database Subscriptions

For several reasons journal and database subscriptions are fundamentally different from book purchases:
  • Books are generally one-off purchases that have no future implications, journals imply a continued engagement.

  • Journal subscriptions imply expenditures at least ten times bigger than those for book purchases. For many years annual subscription prices have been increasing with 8% or more - obviously library budgets haven't.

  • Journal subscriptions need to be pre-paid. Subscribing in the middle of the year gives you only partial value for the full year's price paid.

  • Each publisher has its own business models, which makes standardization of access options (e.g. the number of archival years) a virtual impossibility. Changes of publisher, incl. take-overs and mergers, can negatively impact access to backfiles.

  • Big deals - i.e. online access to hundreds or thousands of journals of the same publisher or aggregate portal - generally offer substantial interesting opportunities for broadening the overall availability level to the scientific literature, at least if a sufficient part of these journals are focused on the 'right' subject. But they also come with restrictions such as the need for multiple year contracts and 'no cancellation' clauses, dependence on decisions of consortium partners, loss of access to backfiles upon cancellation, etc.

  • Individual journal articles are generally easy to obtain at moderate cost from other networked national and international partners, so infrequently used journals need not necessarily be 'must have' titles.

ITG's journals and databases subscription policy:
  • The ITG Library has a long tradition of offering a well balanced collection of academic journals for a stable budget. For specialties like tropical and parasitic diseases and global health issues it probably has the finest academic collection in the country.

  • Evidently, no library in the world can manage to subscribe to all journals and databases potentially relevant for their institute's research interests, so the locally available core collection is complemented by a highly performant Document Delivery service, which also acts as a detector for unmet needs.

  • So within the constrains of the allocated budget and sometimes perverse market mechanisms there is a vulnerable equilibrium to take into account. This is the major reason why institutional journal budgets are managed by the central library and cannot be used for separate subscriptions for specialized research units (project and personal support budgets are a different matter).

  • Suggestions and requests for new journal or database subscriptions may be sent to the librarian who will evaluate them during the renewal process in the last quarter of the year, a time at which the shape of the allocated budget for the coming year becomes more or less visible. Requests for big changes implying either major cancellations or substantial budget increases will at that time be discussed with the Director's Committee.

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