As budgets become tighter and journal subscription prices increase, it is imperative that libraries look to new metrics to assess value for money.  This is especially true in the case of ‘big deals’ – large aggregations of journals from publishers sold as a single package.  Some of these packages now cost RLUK members over £1million per year and account for an ever increasing proportion of library budgets.  Such deals have proved attractive as they allow libraries to expand the range of titles they provide to users for a relatively small additional fee.  But to date RLUK members have lacked a simple way to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of these packages.

At a recent Workshop for members, RLUK unveiled a powerful model that allows members to carefully analyse the value-for-money of publisher packages and to determine whether there would be cost savings to be made from moving back to title-by-title purchasing.  The model allows each member to combine pricing information with the usage their community makes of the relevant journals.  The library can then alter the combination of title-by-title subscriptions and document delivery options and compare the costs of these combinations to the cost of the big deals.

Initial testing of the model by a small group of test-sites shows that the majority of download come from a minority of journals, with some titles being used only sporadically.  This offers the possibility that for some combinations of subscriptions and document delivery the total cost will be less than the cost of the big deal.  Libraries will now be in a strong position to make informed decisions on the best ways to spend their limited budgets on maximising access to the resources that their researchers and students require.

Concurrently, RLUK is working with its members on ways in which document delivery can be improved and made more efficient.

For more information on RLUK’s activities in this area, please contact: David Prosser, Executive Director, RLUK (