Like the ground in the Ring of Fire that surrounds the Pacific Ocean, the serials world is in almost constant motion, responding simultaneously to pressures both large and small. As in seismology, some of the pressures result in incremental changes, while others, often the result of years of incremental change hidden below the surface, seem suddenly to shake the serials world like an earthquake.
For those who don’t know, the Big Deal is an arrangement with ejournal publishers to bundle their entire content into a large package of ejournals, while charging less than the full content would cost a library through individual subscriptions. An example is Elsevier, which provides something called the “Freedom Package” to academic libraries. For a relatively small percentage of what a library pays for Elsevier subscriptions, the library get access to everything Elsevier publishes. That’s the upside. The downside is that, once locked into multiyear licenses for these Big Deals, libraries are unable to reduce their number of subscriptions or lower their ejournal costs if they need to.
The stock market has hit record highs, and unemployment has reached the lowest level since the recession began. Despite this good news, the library economic environment has not seen commensurate improvement. There continues to be a struggle to find the resources needed to support library collections and services, and conditions remain highly unsettled.