Library database fees cost schools millions

By Joseph Guzy | Photo Editor Duquesne’s Gumberg Library spends $1.7 million on fees and subscriptions for online research databases. According to the University of Pittsburgh library, these fees increase at three times the normal inflation rate, placing a burden on schools.

By Joseph Guzy | Photo Editor
Duquesne’s Gumberg Library spends $1.7 million on fees and subscriptions for online research databases. According to the University of Pittsburgh library, these fees increase at three times the normal inflation rate, placing a burden on schools.

By Raymond Arke | The Duquesne Duke

While students may complain about prices for textbooks, libraries have begun to struggle with a similar problem. With costs rising three times the rate of inflation, subscriptions to online databases and journals can leave collegiate libraries shelling out big money.

Sara Baron, Duquesne’s head librarian, said Gumberg Library provides access to more than 126,200 electronic journals and more than 200 research databases. For this academic year, they are paying roughly $1.7 million for all electronic and print subscriptions.

The electronic resources are well-used by students. In a study from last year, Duquesne’s digital databases and journals were accessed almost two million times.

“A fundamental role of academic libraries is to provide access to information in areas of study at the institution,” Baron explained.

Subscriptions to these journals and databases are carefully determined by the library staff.

“The decision to license a database or e-journal is carefully made based on the content of the database; the scope of subject coverage; how it supports the academic curriculum and research interests of students and faculty; and on the pricing model,” Baron said.

Managing online resource is a “team effort,” Baron said, with the library faculty continually working with academic faculty to review new resources and recommend purchases.

“Students and researchers must have access to both the historical record and the latest cutting-edge thinking and research,” Baron said. “Electronic databases and journals are among the best resources for accessing this information.”

Other universities dole out large chunks of their budget to fees and subscriptions as well. According to the University Library System at the University of Pittsburgh, in 2014, Pitt had to spend $4.4 million on journal subscriptions along with $3.9 million on databases.

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