This post is part of an ongoing series about digital archival collections (DACs) and launches our new guide: purchasing digital archives; guidelines for librarians when negotiating with publishers, which provides guidance on the purchasing of these collections for librarians needing to negotiate licences with publishers.
Previously our research has shown that these collections provide valuable research opportunities in learning, teaching, and research. Higher Education (HE) libraries spend a considerable amount of money on them. Demand for these electronic resources is now likely to increase due to the COVID-19 crisis as teaching has largely moved online.
We recognise associated costs for publishers in hosting these collections, but there is a lack of transparency about the charges made to cover these costs. This is something which has been discussed over a long period on various library and archive lists, not least under the topic: Annual Hosting Fees – enough is enough!
Responses to our 2019 survey on the subject of platform fees relating to DACs showed that 42% of the 67 institutions that took part spent, on average, up to 100K or more over the preceding five years on one-off purchases from publishers (see this previous post on the subject with linked report).
Most pressingly, these institutions reported dissatisfaction with the so-called platform fees. Every year libraries purchase DACs, as one-off perpetual purchases. Precise business models and licensing terms for these ‘perpetual’ purchases can vary from one publisher to another, but it is common practice for them to involve an additional yearly platform fee.
The case studies we developed as part of our making your collection easier to discover guide and ongoing anecdotal evidence suggests that academics are increasingly starting to use these primary source archives in teaching as well as in research and demand for teaching modules is likely to emerge. This at a time when budgets are likely to be affected over the medium to long term due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. So, making these collections economically sustainable for libraries and archives is more important than ever.
We developed the guidelines in cooperation with our DAC community, including the DAC advisory group and respondents to the earlier survey. We hope that they are useful to our membership and beyond.
You can also take look at our DAC group purchasing scheme which supports the one-off cost of collections with no recurring platform fees.