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Saying Costly Subscriptions ‘Cannot Be Sustained,’ Harvard Library Committee Urges Open Access

The rising cost of journal subscriptions has created an “untenable situation” for the Harvard Library, according to the library’s Faculty Advisory Council. In a frank open letter to the Harvard faculty, the council warns that the library faces a subscription crisis “exacerbated by efforts of certain publishers” to bundle journals into high-priced packages. The letter does not name those publishers but says that Harvard now pays almost $3.75-million a year for their journals. “Continuing these subscriptions on their current footing is financially untenable,” the council says. It urges faculty and students to “move prestige to open access,” and lays out several steps that researchers and librarians can take. Those include depositing papers in DASH, Harvard’s institutional repository; submitting to open-access journals or those with “reasonable” costs; urging scholarly professional associations to adopt more library-friendly policies; and insisting on subscription contracts “in which the terms can be made public.” Led by Robert C. Darnton, Harvard’s university librarian, the council includes faculty representatives from a variety of disciplines.

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