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MIT Libraries Declines Three-Year Elsevier and Wiley Renewals

:: Another major library system has joined Cornell University Library in not renewing their subscriptions to Elsevier journals. MIT Libraries has announced it will not renew three-year online and print subscription packages from Wiley InterScience and Elsevier Science. Last year, the Faculty Committee of the Library System expressed their concern about this issue:

    “… we are concerned about the pressures exerted on the scholarly publishing system by a small number of highly profitable commercial publishers concentrating in science and technology journals. These publishers lock libraries into high-priced packages for combined print/electronic output, and contractually constrain libraries’ ability to manage expenditures. Libraries must invest a continually larger percentage of their budgets in providing access to these publications.”

    **Professor Marcus Zahn, Chair of the Faculty Committee on the Library System The MIT Faculty Newsletter, Dec.-Jan., 2003

MIT Libraries was offered the three-year renewal packages through their membership in the NorthEast Research Libraries Consortium (NERL), but the cost and commitment to proceed became prohibitive:
    "Through our membership in the NorthEast Research Libraries Consortium (NERL), the MIT Libraries were offered three-year renewals for our Wiley and Elsevier packages of print and electronic journals. The costs of these two packages constitute approximately one-third of the Libraries’ budget for serials (those materials we pay for by subscription on a continuing basis). The multi-year agreements required a commitment not to cancel titles (or to substitute other titles at the same price level for any cancellations). The decision to decline the three-year renewals was difficult because the terms for one-year renewals were considerably less attractive. However, the one-year renewals put us in a position of being able to cancel titles next year if we need to."
So what happens next? Harvard University Library has cancelled subscriptions to ~100 Elsevier journals. With the most important research institutions on Planet Earth cancelling journals from the largest STM publisher, where does that leave their scientists, scholars and engineers? Will these actions put pressure on Elsevier to drop their prices, or will they increase them further so that those of us who still subscribe will bear the brunt of their losses to date?

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