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@Harrell.Lib (July, 2012)

The Official Newsletter of the George T. Harrell Health Sciences Library, Vol. 3 (3) July, 2012

Director's Note by Cynthia Robinson

Why doesn’t the library have …?  Coping with a runaway train.

To paraphrase the 2012 Library Journal Periodicals Price Survey, “libraries are stuck between the rock (stagnant budgets) and the hard place (steady serials price increases).[1]  The Harrell Health Sciences Library is no exception. Difficult economic conditions and serial price increases challenge our ability to maintain existing and provide additional essential information resources.  We in the library often get questions about journal availability. Sometimes the answer is simply a matter of understanding how to locate and access a particular title the library makes available via a subscription.  Unfortunately there isn’t always an easy answer.  Other times we may not subscribe to the journal, and then it becomes a matter of cost and demand.  In these lean times we strive to target resources critical to our goals related to our four missions: education, research, clinical care, and community outreach.  When we make the decision to add a journal title to the collection, concomitantly we must cancel something else.  With stagnant budgets, libraries simply cannot keep up with continuously rising costs and demand.   We certainly encourage our faculty, staff and students to make purchase recommendations, but we can’t guarantee we will always purchase a recommended title.  After evaluating all the alternatives, it may prove to be more economically viable to acquire articles through Interlibrary Loan; at other times it may make economic sense to subscribe to a title. 

“Data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) show that over the past 25 years expenditures for libraries as a percentage of all university expenses have dropped from a high of 3.7 percent in 1982 to less than 2 percent in 2008.”[2] Translated, this is $3 billion dollars less for libraries.  Quoting Bosch and Henderson, “That’s a lot of serials!” 

At the same time, serial pricing has increased exponentially.  Based on data from the Association of Research Libraries, during the 20 year period 1986-2006, serial expenditures in ARL libraries increased 321% while serials purchased increase by only 51%. [3]   These numbers reflect all serials purchased.  Prices for science, technology, and medicine (STM) serials have historically been significantly higher and remain so.  The average price of chemistry journals is in the $4000 range while health sciences journals are in the $1700 range.  It is difficult to predict exactly what will happen in the coming year.  The Harrell HSL has budgeted for an average overall inflationary increase of between 8-9% for 2013.  We base our projections on information from EBSCO our serials vendor, the Library Journal annual periodical price survey, and the Harrell HSL’s historical serial expenditure data.  Because of the volatility in world markets, currency exchange rates, publishing trends, technology, and a variety of other variables these percentages could change.  At the present time serials prices are trending up.  Unfortunately, the library’s budget remains flat and we may face the need to make difficult decisions in the coming year.  Again quoting Bosch and Henderson, “inventiveness has limits, and many libraries [including Harrell HSL] are nearing the end of their ability to leverage shrinking buying power.”

So, what do you have access to?  Currently, through our A-Z Journals List, the Harrell HSL has links to approximately 11,947 in-scope titles, i.e. those relevant to the health sciences.  These include subscriptions paid for by the library, open access titles, and other relevant titles that are freely available.  In addition, because the Harrell HSL partners with University Libraries to license a broad range of resources, faculty, staff and students have access to library collections across Penn State University.   Our relationship with University Libraries has provided an opportunity to leverage Harrell HSL collection dollars to maximum effect and as a result this not only benefits Penn State Hershey but all of Penn State University.  

Partnerships of all kinds, both internal and external, are critical for libraries going forward.  Sustaining the library is a partnership.  Librarians, faculty, students, administrators, publishers, funders, and government must all work together to ensure ongoing access and preservation of the knowledge base so critical to our ability to educate, engage in research, jump-start the economy, and in Penn State Hershey’s case, provide world-class clinical care.  After all, isn’t this the information society so eloquently discussed by the likes of Peter Drucker and Alvin Toffler?


[1] Bosch, S., and Henderson, K. Coping with the Terrible Twins: Periodicals Price Survey 2012. Library Journal, April 30, 2012.

[2] Bosch, S., and Henderson, K. Coping with the Terrible Twins: Periodicals Price Survey 2012. Library Journal, April 30, 2012.

[3] Kyrillidou, M., and Young, M. ARL Statistics 2005-06. Association of Research Libraries, Washington, D.C., 2008.


We Get Letters...

I just wanted to say a big thank you for getting a subscription to Springer Protocols.  Throughout my graduate career I have constantly found the need for these, and having them available is a big help.  Thanks!  -- K.H., graduate student 

Nominate for the READ Poster Award

Know someone who is a Harrell HSL supporter? Nominate him/her for the 2012 READ Poster Award!

Graphic Novels on Display

Visit the library to see our new display of graphic novels on medical themes, created by Sharon Daugherty, library circulation staff. Any of the titles can be checked out to you.