Will Harvard Library to Jettison Paid Access Academic Journals?

May 3, 2012

In what could be another step toward knowledge failure, BoingBoing reports “Harvard Library to Faculty: We’re Going Broke Unless You Go Open Access.” Struggling with the high costs of academic journal access fees, the Harvard Library Faculty Advisory Council has decided to cancel all the library’s paid scholarly subscriptions.

There’s no doubt that these charges are out of control, and steadily encroaching on the budgets for other acquisitions. Writer Cory Doctorow quotes the Council’s Memorandum on Journal Pricing:

“Harvard’s annual cost for journals from these providers now approaches $3.75M. . . . Some journals cost as much as $40,000 per year, others in the tens of thousands. Prices for online content from two providers have increased by about 145% over the past six years, which far exceeds not only the consumer price index, but also the higher education and the library price indices.”

We understand that the library must control costs. It is unfortunate, however, that that knowledge will no longer be at students’ fingertips. The open access academic world is still sparsely populated, and the Council makes this plea in hope of a richer open access community in the future:

“It’s suggesting that faculty make their research publicly available, switch to publishing in open access journals and consider resigning from the boards of journals that don’t allow open access.”

Perhaps the scholarly open access options will grow, in time. In the meanwhile, it will be the students who miss out on key knowledge.

Cynthia Murrell, May 3, 2012

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