Transparency on Journal Pricing – Make a List!

Sian Brannon (she, her, hers), the Associate Dean for Collection Management at University of North Texas Libraries, has been in libraries since the 1990s. She has worked in public, academic, and technical libraries, but likes her home library the best. Her research interests include supervision/leadership, internships, assessment, Fear of Negative Evaluation, and randomly, the Technology Acceptance Model. She edits Public Services Quarterly, and is an adjunct professor for Technical Services/Research Methods courses.

Darin Castillo, Electronic Resources and Contract Assistant, University of North Texas

Todd Enoch, Head of Serials/ER Unit, University of North Texas

The University of North Texas Libraries subscribe to 1000s of different journals, e-books, and database packages, generally with annual payments. While some publishers insist on contract/license terms that prohibit disclosure of pricing information, many do not.

In 2017, following in the footsteps of the University of Alberta and Simon Fraser University, the University of North Texas Libraries elected to create a “Transparency List” of pricing for ongoing subscriptions for the sake of giving as much information as possible to inform decisions regarding collections.

Each year, the Collection Development Department in the Libraries amass pricing information for a rolling 3 years, and post it as a spreadsheet and a dataset in the institutional repository. It includes a ‘data dictionary’ describing the various fields. When publishers prohibit disclosure of their pricing, we have redacted the costs, and included a statement as to why. So far, the online Serials Transparency List has been viewed over 1,430 times.

With this information, we anticipate library liaisons and university faculty might look at pricing of journals in their fields for informed decision-making, and also use the data in ways we haven’t even thought of yet. We also make this public to the world in our institutional repository and through the SPARC Big Deal Knowledge Base in hopes that it helps other libraries with their negotiations and collection management decisions.

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