Research Libraries UK (RLUK), which represents 30 research libraries in the UK and Ireland, announced on December 1 that JISC Collections had “secured better terms and conditions” for the UK higher-ed market as part of negotiated deals with the two largest academic journal publishers in the UK, Elsevier and Wiley-Blackwell. In a separate announcement on November 29, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and LYRASIS announced that they have signed an agreement designating LYRASIS, the largest U.S. regional nonprofit library membership organization, as a negotiating agent for online content on behalf of interested ARL members.
At a conference last year, as LJ reported, RLUK instructed JISC Collections, which negotiates with publishers on behalf of the UK higher education sector, that it should “secure contracts which will not only rescind the unreasonable price rises of the last three years, but also offer affordable deals for the future.”
RLUK announced in a press release at that time that it “would not support future journal big deals unless [publishers] showed real price reductions.”
RLUK was instrumental in helping JISC Collections secure the deals, according to yesterday’s announcement, which RLUK estimated will save more than £20 million ($31.4 million) for the UK higher-ed sector over the lifetime of the five-year agreements. “These deals serve as new benchmarks for our relations with other publishers, as RLUK’s members will no longer accept massive unjustified price rises,” said RLUK chair Phil Sykes in the announcement.
Changes in pricing policy were also negotiated as part of the deals, the announcement said, “which will better protect institutions from the uncertainty of currency fluctuations, making it easier to manage budgets.” Further details about the deals were not supplied, due to confidentiality clauses in the agreements, though RLUK stated that they would continue to push for such clauses’ removal in future deals.
Deborah Shorley, director of library services at Imperial College London and a member of the RLUK board, told LJ that the new deals “reflect increases far lower than we would have anticipated otherwise.” She added, “we are well pleased with the deals JISC Collections has signed on our behalf, although of course any price rises mean that we have to spread our funds more thinly every year.”
Negotiations are continuing with other publishers, she said, through JISC Collections and by individual institutions. “We cannot discuss the details of these discussions but are confident that the good deals we have signed with Elsevier and Wiley-Blackwell have created an important precedent,” she said.
ARL, LYRASIS hammering out details
Though the unrelated ARL/LYRASIS agreement, designating LYRASIS as a negotiating agent for online content for some ARL members, appears to respond to the same underlying issues surrounding price increases, there are key differences, as Julia Blixrud, ARL’s assistant executive director of scholarly communication, pointed out. “The UK has always operated in a different environment,” she said. JISC Collections, for example, is a state-funded agency in the UK, which has no analogue in the United States.
Blixrud told LJ that ARL, whose membership includes 126 research libraries in North America, does not “have any plans to be a buying consortium.” That said, several ARL members have large licensing budgets which could make a difference in publisher negotiations. Only interested ARL members would take part, Blixrud said.
Many details have yet to worked out before negotiations with publishers might begin—“This is new to us, and new to LYRASIS,” Blixrud said—but initial meetings have been scheduled.