With multi-year terms and built-in price increases, “Big Deal” journal bundles can compromise budget sustainability and flexibility for institutions. Libraries contemplating unbundling big deals must contend with a loss of convenience for researchers as well as the costs and complications of connecting them with needed materials by other means. A growing literature has emerged analyzing the impacts of unbundling big deals on budgets and workflows, much of it focused on quantitative measures such as impacts on interlibrary loan demand. But what about impacts on researcher perceptions and behavior?
Recently, Georgia Southern University and Cornell University each unbundled one or more big deals in favor of curating individual subscriptions. Librarians from each institution will share how they accounted for researcher perceptions and behavior before, during, and after unbundling. At Georgia Southern, librarians asked faculty to identify journals considered essential, important, or desirable for teaching and research, then ranked these titles according to a “use adjusted score” combining their feedback with the average number of article views per title per year. Using this score, librarians balanced the faculty’s feedback with usage data to ensure renewal of journals with sufficient use to justify their cost while safeguarding lower-use journals uniquely valuable to the collection. At Cornell, librarians embarked on a research project after the licensing changes to better understand the impact on users. In addition to quantitative measures of historical journal usage, turnaway data and interlibrary loan requests for non-subscribed titles previously in the journal package, the Cornell study employed structured interviews with researchers who had recently cited or published in the non-subscribed journals or had requested an article via interlibrary loan. Members of the Cornell team will discuss research methods and preliminary findings, including a thematic analysis of the researcher interviews.