COVID-19 has had a significant impact on higher education institutions and their libraries; the negative financial effects will continue throughout 2020/21 and well beyond. This is reflected in projected budgets for the next academic year, with many libraries being asked to model budget cuts of up to 40%. This will require libraries to cancel existing subscriptions and reduce their investment in new content. The focus of RLUK libraries over the next few years is on affordability of content and accessibility of resources for teaching and research.
RLUK wholly endorses the joint UUK/Jisc letters recently sent to publishers in the light of the coronavirus pandemic. In developing this statement, RLUK reaffirms its support for the many initiatives that Jisc and others are carrying out. It also seeks to provide support for librarians and their higher education institutions as they make decisions on purchases, new subscriptions and renewals. This is intended both as a position statement for RLUK, and as a guide for those who are involved in the management and negotiation of content licences within libraries, irrespective of whether they are RLUK members.
RLUK asks publishers to recognise the scale of the financial challenge facing the sector and to help us at this difficult time by working with us to make the scholarly communications ecosystem more sustainable, transparent and open. We appreciate the temporary access to content that many publishers have given us recently. We now need to use this crisis point as an opportunity to review established business models and long-standing unaffordable practices.
If we do not see concrete action towards the requirements listed below, RLUK member libraries will be forced to cancel valuable resources. We want to work productively with our closest partners, publishers and content suppliers, to develop sustainable business models which work for all stakeholders.
On behalf of the RLUK Collections Strategy Network, August 2020