Information Resources Strategies

Working in collaboration with our community and peer institutions, Queen’s University Library provides leadership in the development of a global knowledge commons that enables high impact research and scholarship, reflecting our values of diversity, inclusion and open access to information.  Our Information Resources Vision outlines our guiding principles.


Scholarly Publishing Marketplace  

Much of the scholarly publishing marketplace is profit driven, employing a business model whereby the publications resulting from publicly funded academic research are given to publishers and sold back to libraries, often at high profit margins.

We are dealing with an oligopoly in which five publishers control over 50% of the market and above 70% in some disciplines.


C: Companies | P: Publishers


The highest possible proportion of public dollars invested in research and education should be spent directly on research and education. While supportive of strong private-sector relationships, and understanding the complexities of scholarly publishing, the U15 is concerned that the business model that is prevalent among for-profit book and journal publishers may impose undue financial pressure on the research and education ecosystem.

Sample Costs

In an effort to increase the transparency of the Canadian scholarly publishing environment, the 28 University library members of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) are jointly releasing their annual expenditure data for journal and database subscriptions licensed through the Canadian Research Knowledge Network consortium.

Costs for "Big five" journal packages licensed by Queen's
Subscription 2018-19 Cost (CAD, tax incl)
Elsevier ScienceDirect-Freedom Collection $2,075,430
Wiley-Blackwell Online Library $1,040,348
Taylor & Francis Journals $628,941
Sage Premier All-Access $224,993
Springer  Queen's University Library is piloting alternative access methods to Springer journals.

Impact on Queen’s

Queen’s University Library is closely aligned with the university’s academic programs and research, and continually assesses how best to allocate resources to meet their needs. This was becoming more and more difficult, with the journal bundles sold together as "big deals" and consuming 44% of the acquisitions operating budget in 2015-16. 


Actions Taken

Queen’s University Library is committed to providing our community members with the information they need while serving as responsible stewards of public funds.  Working in collaboration with our community and peer institutions, one strategy involves modifying the ways we purchase information, in particular from journal publishers whose pricing and bundling of content pose significant challenges.  Our steps in that strategy are outlined below.

1. Raise Awareness and Gather Feedback (2016-)

The library engaged extensively with the Queen’s university community to raise awareness of the challenges with prevalent publishing models and listen to individuals’ perspectives. In 2016-17, consultations included a forum co-sponsored by the Senate Library Committee, and presentations to 13 academic groups across the university, including Senate and Faculty Boards. Similar consultations have continued in subsequent years with Library Advisory Committees, and subject librarians continue to monitor the needs of their disciplines on an ongoing basis.

2. Identify High Value Journals (2017-2018)

To learn more about which journals are important to Queen’s researchers, we engaged in a Journal Usage Project (JUP).The JUP data analysis indicated that:

  • 15.22% of all available journals appear to be considered high priority by the Queen’s community
  • The cost per use is extremely high in some cases – in the thousands of dollars for a single article

In the spring of 2018 we invited Queen’s faculty members and graduate students to review a database of the highly-valued journal titles, as identified by the JUP to tell us if we missed anything.  Buillding on the observations from the Journal Usage Project and further community input obtained in Spring 2018, we analyzed the best options for obtaining journal articles. Considerations included:

  • researchers’ input regarding Queen’s highly-valued journals 
  • perpetual access to backfiles, for example through Scholar’s Portal
  • consortial offerings and pricing
  • cost per use
  • Open Access availability
  • document delivery and inter-library loan options
  • other factors as they arise in an evolving landscape.

3. Pilot Implementation (2019-)

Our Journal Usage Project indicated that many of the journals included in the "big deals" are not highly valued by the Queen's community, and changes were needed to curate access to scholarly materials reflecting the diversity of new research and scholarship at Queen's.  In 2019 the library began piloting alternative access options for a small subset of 2019 and 2020 journal articles, as outlined in the Library’s Strategic Priorities 2018-19 to 2020-21. The pilot is guided by the results of Queen’s Journal Usage Project and the high-value journals identified by the Queen’s community.

Key information about the MAP Pilot

  • Springer content from the previous "big deal" continues to be available through 2018
  • The library subscribed to a small set of Springer journals for 2019 and beyond, based on user feedback
  • Other identified high-value Springer journals from 2019 onward will be available via Reprints Desk, a rapid document delivery system accessible at the article level vis the library's discovery service Omni or when you follow “Getit@Queen’s” links in other databases and search tools
  • The library pays a copyright clearance fee and an administration charge for each article you request
  • Previous "big deal" access to 2019 and 2020 Springer content will cease on the vendor's site on June 1, 2020, as negotiations have concluded.

Please consult our Instructions for using Reprints Desk for select 2019 and 2020 Springer content. 

Due to the pilot, the 'big deals' portion of the library's acquisitions operating budget decreased to 36% in 2018-19, from as high as 44% in 2015-16. 



4. Innovate

At the same time, we’re working to advance alternative, cost-effective scholarly communication models that leverage digital opportunities to enable access to the widest possible audience at the earliest possible opportunity; see Innovation.

The library is committed to providing you with the information you need.  We will continue to consult with faculty and students in evaluating alternative access models to journal articles, and more flexible acquisitions practices to sustainably support research and teaching at the university.  Please contact Ian Robson, Head of Information Resources, with questions and comments

What Others are Saying

There is widespread (even if not universal) agreement that something is deeply wrong with the current system of academic publishing… The basic point…. is that the really hard parts — the writing of papers, and the peer review and selection of the ones to publish — are done voluntarily by academics, and modern technology makes things like typesetting and dissemination extremely cheap. And yet publishers are making more money than ever before. They do this by insisting that we give them ownership of the content we produce… 

… we cannot buy our way out of this … We really have to change the model.

…we believe the price of scholarly journals has been profoundly inflated relative to their value

The de facto arbiters of quality of science, and the stewards of the scientific literature, are now accountable not to science but to shareholders. Subscribers, like my university’s library, face the difficult choice of acceding to whatever the corporate owners demand for subscription fees or losing access.

The same journal subscriptions that libraries once purchased at nominal cost directly from the [scholarly] societies are today breaking institutional budgets as publishers raise prices at many times the rate of inflation. Libraries no longer order journals from scholars acting to benefit scholarship. Instead, we must negotiate massive licensing packages with for-profit publishers, many of them answerable not to scholars but to shareholders.

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