Harvard is Pursuing its Own Elsevier Deal

“In a move that reflects the extent of academic librarians’ concerns with the inflexibility of so-called “big deal” e-journal packages, Harvard University likely will not sign a multi-year contract to renew access to Elsevier’s journals. Harvard University Library Director Sidney Verba said, “We haven’t finished negotiating, but in all likelihood we will not be signing the renewal offer through NERL, in the way in which they have put it forward.” NERL, the Northeast Research Library consortium, includes 21 research libraries, Harvard among them. Verba said the sticking points were the inflexible “bundling” of journals in the previous contract and the inability to cancel journal titles without incurring heavy penalties. In “big deal” packages, libraries are contractually locked in to subscriptions for extended periods, regardless of usage and changing budget situations, in exchange for deep discounts and caps on inflation. “The main point is the ability of libraries to control their own collections,” explained Verba, “to cancel what they want to cancel, to have the option of attrition, especially in times of real financial stress, like now. The Elsevier contract does not really allow that.” Harvard spends six percent of its materials budget on Elsevier–about four times more than on its second highest collection expense….”