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Economics of Scholarly Resources

Information technology and the transition of print to digital dissemination have revolutionized the publishing industry and, as a result, traditional publisher models have dramatically changed. Much communication of the scholarly record is now disseminated from a vast array of disparate digital sources with accessibility ranging from beyond the walls of the library and campus borders to our users’ desktops.

Rising Costs
  • In 1997, Becker Library expenditures for electronic journals: $20,500
  • In 2011, Becker Library expenditures for electronic journals: $2.7 million

  • In 1998, Danforth Campus Libraries (except Law) expenditures for electronic journals: $79,000
  • In 2011, Danforth Campus Libraries (except Law) expenditures for electronic journals: $2.96 million

The transformation from print to digital has had a profound impact on Washington University Libraries. In 1997, Becker Library held few materials in digital format with the majority being in print format. As of 2011, Becker subscribes to approximately 4,000 journals in digital format and less than 50 print journals, and has over 5,000 books in digital format. Ten years ago, Becker Library did not offer proxy accounts to our users; now this is one of our most requested resources. Libraries on the Danforth Campus have experienced a similar transformation. As of 2011, they offered access to over 272 databases, 78,000 e-journals, and 566,000 books in digital format.

Washington University Libraries is committed to providing our users with the scholarly resources to support research and academic needs. In recent years, this has posed some challenges due to escalating publication costs. To ensure that our journal collections include sustainable titles with the greatest impact and local usage, our Collection Management teams:

  • perform detailed analysis of our journal collections using impact factor criteria
  • engage in consortia agreements to reduce costs and maximize access
  • share journal expenses
  • provide access to journals from new publishing models
  • rely on faculty input to inform collection development decisions

In addition, the Subject Specialists from Washington University Libraries and the liaisons from Becker Library perform collection analysis to ensure that our collections contain the most high-quality and relevant resources in the subject matter of their assigned departments or programs.


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