Interview: Jeffrey Horrell
As one step in meeting the challenge of closing the gap between relatively flat income and rising
expenditures, Harvard College Library (HCL) is taking steps to eliminate duplicate journal titles.
Jeffrey Horrell, associate librarian of Harvard College for collections, is leading this initiative and
comments on the project in this Library Notes interview.
Why is HCL focusing on journals as opposed to other materials?
Over the past four years, the cost of journal titles in North America has increased over 41%, in Europe
33%, in Asia nearly 22%, and in Australia and New Zealand just over 57%. Increases by subject area in
the same period have ranged from 23% for art and architecture titles to nearly 35% for physics and 51%
for political science. Journal subscription costs are soaring as an apparent result of mergers, monopolies,
and high profit margins in the publishing industry. In addition, many publishers have established
complicated, expensive, restrictive pricing structures for licensing journals that are published in both print
and electronic format.
The elimination of duplicate journal subscriptions has been identified as one of several areas in which the
College Library can realize savings without jeopardizing the integrity of the collections. The Library is
facing a projected shortfall of several million dollars over the next two fiscal years.
How have journal prices affected HCL?
HCL has hundreds of duplicate print subscriptions with copies housed in libraries that are all within a
short distance of each other. With the escalating price of journals, these duplicate subscriptions are
costing HCL tens of thousands of dollars. For example, the journal Advances in Experimental Social
Psychology, which costs over $70 per copy, is held at Widener, Lamont, and Hilles libraries, as well
as Gutman and Baker. Africa: Journal of the International Institute of African Languages and
Cultures costs $365 per copy and is held at Widener, Tozzer, and Hilles; Social Choice and Welfare
costs $540 per copy and is held in both Widener and Littauer.
What is the goal of the initiative?
Our goal is to maintain only one print copy of a title and to eliminate at least $250,000 of duplicate
purchases. Over time, the elimination of duplicate journal subscriptions will result in additional savings
because extra copies will not have to be checked in, shelved and re-shelved, bound, or stored and
retrieved from the Harvard Depository. In this way, the Library continues to fulfill its
mission to acquire and provide access to intellectual content and at the same time conserves resources.
How will HCL implement the initiative?
An initial task group will be convened. They will identify duplicate titles within the HCL collection and
devise a plan for reducing subscriptions and for housing and archiving the copy that remains. The group
will have to pay careful attention to our electronic licensing agreements because the terms will vary from
title to title.
The task group will also be responsible for establishing a system to keep other Harvard libraries apprised
of the duplicate holdings HCL is eliminating because a ripple effect can occur. For instance, a library
outside HCL may experience an increase in the use of a journal it holds once the title is not available in
several HCL locations. We would, of course, need to coordinate efforts very carefully with the other
Harvard facultiesso that a Harvard library outside of HCL might become the "library of record" for titles
that HCL no longer held.
Recommendations for cancellations will be presented to the Digital Acquisitions and Collection
Committee of HUL for approval.
This initiative follows from two earlier rounds of duplicate journal cancellations across HCL this year.
The task group that worked on the earlier reductions will be reconstituted for this project. Members
include Jean Lenville, head of Widener Serials Services Division; Amanda Bowen, head of Collection
Management for the Fine Arts Library; Jan Voogd, head of Collection Management for the Social
Sciences Program; and Barbara Halporn, head of Collection Development in Widener.
Are any journals being eliminated entirely?
In addition to this concerted effort to reduce duplicate subscriptions, there will always be some changes
in the titles to which we subscribe. Selectors cancel a handful of journal titles each year, based on use,
availability, and cost, as part of our regular collection management efforts.
How will this affect users?
Library users at Harvard will still have access to the breadth of journal titles to which they are
accustomed. Because the duplicate journals will not be held in multiple places, some users are bound to
miss the convenience of proximity. However, we feel that it is far better to have the titles at fewer
locations in order to continue acquiring unique materials needed for Harvard's academic programs.
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