Spectrum Logo
A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year
Libraries Complete Serials Review

Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 04 - September 18, 1997

Completing a project which was begun during the spring semester, the University Libraries have canceled a total of 777 serial titles with a cumulative annual cost of more than $620,000. Most of the canceled titles represent journals. Newspapers, selected databases, and other miscellaneous serials such as monographic series or annuals accounted for the remainder of the eliminated titles. Most titles will continue to be received through the end of the year.

As was indicated in the April 17 edition of Spectrum, the necessity to cancel serials stemmed from the combination of disproportionate inflation in scholarly and scientific serials, which has averaged about 11 percent for the past several years, and the university's recent financial pressures. Most research libraries in the United States have had to trim their own serial lists more than once in the past decade.

The eliminated titles represent serials in all disciplines. About one-eighth of the total savings were realized by dropping local subscriptions in deference to resources supplied by VIVA (the Virtual Library of Virginia). A small number of titles represented duplicate copies or duplicate formats. All others were unique titles which the libraries will almost always be able to supply through interlibrary loan or commercial document delivery.

To identify titles to be canceled, the collegiate librarians, reference staff, and others worked with Principal Bibliographer Paul Metz to nominate a long list of possibilities. More than 1,100 titles were identified for possible cancellation on the grounds of price, relevance to academic programs, publisher reputation, number and breadth of major indexes providing coverage, citations, and measured use. The nominated titles were then publicized through a variety of channels, of which the most useful was the World Wide Web. By consulting the libraries' web page, faculty members and other users could initiate notes to the subject bibliographer responsible for each title. More than 500 such notes were received. These, annotations on printed listings, and all other communications were carefully considered in reducing the list.

The libraries have now undertaken three major serials cancellations in this decade. Among the 1991, 1995, and 1997 projects, a total of 3,500 titles with a current annual cost of approximately $1.75 million have been eliminated. Despite these cuts, discretionary funds for books and other one-time purchases have not been restored to adequate levels, and it may be necessary to eliminate further titles in the near future.

To study the problem of scientific and scholarly communications of which these cuts are symptomatic, Vice President for Information Systems Erv Blythe has appointed a task force to be chaired by Dean of Libraries Eileen Hitchingham. In addition to recommending the means by which the libraries can ultimately migrate to an even greater reliance on document delivery and electronic access, the task force will recommend the funding levels required by the libraries in the near term.

Complete lists of canceled serials, sorted by title and by fund code, are available at http://www.lib.vt.edu/Facilities/colldev/Serials/newcover.html or from printouts on reserve at each library location and at the reference desks in Newman Library.