Collections Review 2020-2022

Donut chart showing the Libraries budget. 44% of the Libraries budget is spent on Collections. 17% of the total budget is spent on Big Deals subscriptions each year.
  • University Libraries is committed to our mission to collect, manage, disseminate, and preserve information to support the curriculum and fuel the intellectual life of the university. 
  • COVID-19 accelerated the erosion of the library's buying power. Subscription costs have been unsustainable for many years, taking a larger percentage of the acquisitions budget to maintain a more homogenized, less inclusive, and less responsive collection as a result. The library essentially pays more in the collections budget for fewer resources.
  • We are investigating ways to reduce our subscription spending. These adjustments will help us sustainably continue to provide materials to our community in years to come.
  • GVSU is not alone. Libraries all over the world are making difficult decisions about their collections. Large systems like the State University of New York, groups of research libraries in Virginia, and many others have cancelled large subscriptions to redirect their collections spending.
  • You can drive change in scholarly publishing by supporting Open Access publishing and Open Educational Resources.

What’s Happening

University Libraries is developing a new collections strategy in response to increasingly inflated journal and database subscription fees as well as forecasted university-wide funding adjustments. 

GVSU is not alone in this situation. In the traditional publishing system, authors submit their work to journals for review; if it is accepted, the journal publishes the work at minimal—or no—cost to the author. Rarely are authors and editors compensated for this work. However, access to those same journals is then sold for thousands of dollars to institutions like GVSU. Content providers exploit the labor of researchers to cash in on systems of convenience and prestige, selling subscriptions to highly-regarded journals at prices that outpace inflation on any other consumer good, without regard for the impact paywalls have on the academic community.

The Numbers

On average, subscription-based resources carry a yearly inflation rate of 5-7% depending on the publisher. This impacts the majority of resources University Libraries acquires and manages.  With a flat library collections base budget for several years, this inflation means the library pays more to provide the same level of coverage. This is not a sustainable or equitable approach to providing resources. 

Beyond Grand Valley

Other institutions are grappling with these same issues, and many have already canceled large subscriptions or have continued licensing negotiations including the University of California, University of North Carolina, and State University of New York systems. The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) is an advocacy organization tracking dozens of similar Big Deal cancellations as other universities disinvest from deals that no longer serve them.

What We're Doing

In the face of these pressures, our mission remains clear: to collect, manage, disseminate, and preserve information to support the university curriculum and fuel the intellectual life of the university.  We connect scholars and learners to resources. Guided by Grand Valley’s values, University Libraries fulfill this mission sustainably, to steward our collection for many years to come.

  • Read more on University Libraries' Innovation Fund award to accelerate the publication of Open Educational Resources, which saved students nearly half a million dollars during the 2019-2020 academic year.  
  • Learn more about our transformative read and publish agreement with Cambridge University Press. Publications accepted at any Cambridge University Press journal will have their article processing charges waived through the end of 2023. 
  • University Libraries is a founding member of Project ReShare, an innovative interlibrary services initiative to create a "user-centered, app-based, community-owned resource sharing platform for libraries to set the standard for how we connect library patrons to the resources and information they require." 
  • Learn more about our decision to implement FOLIO, an open source library services platform.
  • Partner with organizations like Our Research, an organization that develops tools around journal subscription assessment and the support of broad scholarly dissemination.  
  • Library faculty continue to work as advocates at local, regional, and national levels to acquire all content at a reasonable cost under terms in alignment with the university's values and mission. 

How we're making these decisions

While dealing with the reality of budget reductions, we ask how our decisions will ultimately benefit students. In this effort, we seek to:

  • Support the curricular goals of the university and honor our community of teacher-scholars
  • Allocate funds strategically to support one-time purchases and ongoing subscriptions
  • Remain flexible to support new programs of study
  • Seek input from the GVSU community to minimize any adverse impacts

Our goals

We approach significant changes to the collection with the same principles which inform the library’s mission and values. Ideally, our resources will be more: 

  • Sustainable: we champion the success of every student through investigating, promoting, and publishing in open and alternative models of scholarly communications. We promote the dissemination and impact of GVSU scholarship through our open access fund, ScholarWorks repository, and Open Educational Resources. We recognize sustainability comes from open scholarship as well as infrastructure.
  • Responsive: we analyze thousands of data points to understand the evolving interests, priorities, and stories of our patrons. We develop the library’s collection through both automated processes and the wisdom of human interventions. We select resources and develop services to challenge the current uncertainty focusing on flexible, accessible, and inclusive resources.
  • Collective: we use the library’s extensive staff and faculty expertise to connect the GVSU community with more resources than it would be possible to obtain through traditional acquisitions methods and limited budgets. We leverage our local, regional, and national networks as active collaborators in student learning, teaching, and research. We recognize the future is shared.   

What You Can Do

Open Access

Open Access means

Open Access does not mean: 

  • lower quality scholarship, absence of peer-review, or lack of prestige 
  • scholars giving up rights to their own work 

Open Access enables teachers, scholars, and learners to find academic information and to use that information to make new discoveries, create new works, and advance human knowledge. The concepts of Open Educational Resources, Open Data, Open Source Software, and Open Research Practices share a core idea that Open means "free to use + permission to modify, share, or reuse," and allows more people to benefit from more information than ever before. 

You can learn more about University Libraries’ commitment to Open Access on the GVSU Libraries Scholarly Communication page.  This includes information about the Open Access Publishing Support Fund, Open Access Week, Open Access Journal Quality Indications, and ScholarWorks, GVSU’s open access repository for sharing the scholarly and educational work of faculty, staff, and students.

How to access things we don’t have anymore

Need something for your research, teaching, or curriculum support? You can suggest a purchase and we'll do our best. University Libraries wants you to have what you need. If we don’t have it, we’ll find it or connect you with alternatives.

In many cases, it will still be possible to access past volumes and issues of an electronic journal we previously subscribed to through post-cancelation access rights. These depend on several factors, including licensing negotiations between the library and content provider. Converting textbooks from print to online has mixed results, depending on the publisher.

The vast majority of canceled titles will be available through Document Delivery. This service is free to the GVSU community and in most cases, delivers a copy of your request to your email within a few days.

Physical materials may also be available through Document Delivery. You can contact your liaison librarian for help finding or accessing resources. 

Contact us

We want to hear from you if you have questions or concerns.  You can email our Collections and Digital Scholarship team at You can email Cara Cadena, Head of Collections and Digital Scholarship, at We welcome your questions about Open Educational Resources at:  

You can also contact your liaison librarian with questions about the Collections Review:

 Bookmark link for this page:

Page last modified December 13, 2021