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Academic Staff Library Guide

A guide aimed at research and teaching academics with information about how to request additional electronic resources, links to information about Reading Lists Online, and other useful information.

Resource Acquisition and Cancellation Decision Policy: Introduction

In October 2018, the Library implemented a centralised budget for all subscription resources. This was introduced partly because the majority of subscriptions formed part of ‘big deals’ with major vendors and could no longer be managed as if they were single subscriptions paid for by a departmental budget, and partly to make efficiency savings in the management of the subscriptions by the Library. This document outlines how the transition to a centralised subscriptions budget will be managed to ensure that the needs of all departments are met, and decisions about new acquisitions and cancellations are made fairly.

This policy was written to:

  • Enable strategic collection development meeting teaching and research needs
  • Ensure Library delivers value for money within the learning resources budget
  • Ensure academic departments are treated fairly in relation to each other
  • Ensure accountability in purchasing and cancellation decision making

All continuous resources (journal subscriptions, subscriptions to packages with e-book, journals or media content, subscriptions to databases) and large purchases (one-off purchases of single items, packages over £500, and Evidence Based Acquisitions/Patron Driven Acquisitions deposits).

The Process

Each year the Library is given a grant for the provision of Learning Resources. The cost of learning resources increases above the standard rate of inflation: for journals and databases this is frequently in excess of 5% per annum. While the Library applies annually in the Planning Round for an uplift to the grant to meet these inflationary rises, it may be the case (as in 2018-19) that we do not receive this uplift.

Currency fluctuations also have an impact on the Library’s ability to meet the cost of its existing subscriptions while also providing funds for new subscriptions and book purchases.

  1. In order to manage this situation more effectively, from 2018-19 all current subscriptions will be paid from a Main Subscriptions fund, which will be top-sliced from the learning resources grant. The size of this fund will be based on a prediction of the annual cost of maintaining our existing subscriptions. In many cases the actual cost cannot be known in advance and depends on inflation and currency fluctuations. In usual circumstances the Library usually expects a price increase of around 5%.
  2. Inter Library Loans and Digital Copies funds, and operational books funds (for meeting student requests and replacement of damaged items) will also be top-sliced. This figure will be based on the previous year’s usage and an estimated uplift.
  3. Of the remaining funds, a proportion (5%) will form a New Subscriptions fund.
  4. The remaining 95% will be allocated among the departments using a revised formula based on costs of books in different disciplines, and staff and student FTE.
  5. If the Library grant does not include an inflationary uplift (usually about 5%) then the Library will review 1-4 above to determine where the cut should be applied.
  6. It is expected that where there are newly created departments, the Library will be granted separate funds to support collection building in these areas.


  1. Requests may come from two sources, Academic Request or Library Proposal. In each case the proposer must complete the online request form which captures key information including specifying the need for the resource, and the interested persons, groups, and departments.
  2. Requests are monitored by the Acquisitions Team who then obtain information on pricing, access method, content, and licensing. Trials will be set up if at all possible. Trials will be publicised to interested parties by the Liaison Team.
  3. The Resources Purchasing Group will meet monthly to consider new requests. The group consists of the Deputy Director, Head of Liaison, Head of Acquisitions and Content Delivery, Books Coordinator, and Subscriptions Coordinator. Information Consultants may occasionally attend to present the case for a particular resource. Decision making will be based on the Criteria (see below).
  4. A request may either be Accepted, Accepted on Condition, Deferred, or Rejected. The outcome of the request will be communicated to the proposer. If the request has been Accepted on Condition, Rejected or Deferred, reasons will be given. If the decision is disputed, a face-to-face meeting may be set up with the Information Consultant to discuss further. If a request is Accepted, a time frame will be provided.
  5. Accepted Requests for resources other than single journal subscriptions will be acquired subject to contractual and licensing approval by the Library Director. Accepted requests will be paid in the first year from the New Subscriptions budget, and the name(s) of the interested department(s) will be recorded in the Library Management System. In the next financial year, the resource will be paid for from the Main Subscriptions budget.
  6. If a request has been Accepted on Condition, this may be because the purchase would take a disproportionate amount of the annual budget.  The proposing department will be asked to cancel an item in order to make up a shortfall in the budget (see Process for Cancellations) or an application will be made for funds via the Planning Round.
  7. If a request has been Deferred, this will usually be because the Library would like further information, or is waiting for a clearer view of available funds toward the end of the financial year. As our funds are allocated according to predicted costs, the Library will be in a better position to make decisions about new purchases when actual costs are known. Deferred requests will form the basis of discussions at a May meeting of the Resources Purchasing group.
  8. Newly acquired resources will be considered as being on Probationary Status for the first two years. This means usage and performance of the resource will be more closely monitored and the Liaison Team will make reasonable efforts to promote the resource if usage is poor.

  1. Cancellation proposals may be received from a department, but primarily they will be generated by the Library Subscriptions Review.
  2. The Resources Purchasing Group will review all existing subscriptions at least once a year, in January. Library Subscriptions Review will be carried out according to the Criteria, and will result in a list of candidates for cancellation. The Resources Purchasing Group may also identify candidates for cancellation at other times, especially when negotiating a request that has been Accepted on Condition.
  3. The Library will then liaise with interested users for each candidate for cancellation to gather further information on whether a resource is still required, and to gather feedback. Liaison will be carried out with the Departmental Library Rep, the Head of Department, the head of any interested Research Group or Head of Teaching, and the original proposer if known.
  4. In cases where there may be cross-departmental interest in a resource, the Library will communicate with all parties. If one of the parties is no longer interested in maintaining a subscription but the others are, then the remaining interested parties may be asked to consider cancelling another resource to offset the additional costs.
  5. The Library will seek to achieve a consensus decision with the interested department. If a seemingly very strong candidate for cancellation is disputed by the interested department, a face-to-face meeting will be suggested to discuss the matter further.
  6. If no there is no response, or communication ceases then the interested users will be sent two follow up emails. If there is still no response after two months the Library will make a decision on behalf of the department.
  7. Cancellations will be carried out at the earliest opportunity (which may be the following financial year).
  8. Cancellations will be recorded. Cancellations made by a particular department may be used to off-set the cost of New Acquisitions requested by the same department in the next two financial years.

The aim of this process is to ensure that the needs of each department are balanced against each other in a way that is fair and transparent. Historical subscriptions need to be broadly maintained, at least in the short term, if some departments are not to be faced with sudden cuts to their resource provision. This means that any solution will unavoidably fall short of absolute fairness. Nevertheless:

  1. Existing subscriptions have been identified as of interest to particular departments according to the information the Library currently holds.
  2. The Library will establish a baseline against which we will monitor future spending. This baseline will be the proportion of the Learning Resources Budget spent against resources that are of interest to each department. This proportion will be based on a three-year average (2015-2018)
  3. The Library will aim broadly to maintain these existing proportions in future so as to ensure that departments that enter a high volume of requests, or particularly expensive requests do not eat into the resource provision for other departments. The Library will tolerate a variance in these proportions of up to 5% either way.
  4. The Library will annually review student numbers across departments in order to judge trends and adjust to big increases and decreases.
  5. The Resources Purchasing Group will review spending annually. An Annual Report will be produced in August, reviewing the previous year’s spending per interested department, new acquisitions and cancellations. Recommendations may be made for the management of the forthcoming year’s New Subscriptions fund. This report will be circulated to the Chief Operating Officer, the Director of Academic Services, the Head of Finance, Heads of School, Heads of Department and Departmental Library Reps.
  6. Trends over the longer-term can then be analysed and appropriate actions can then be considered.

The criteria considered when considering requests

These Criteria will be followed by the Resources Purchasing Group when considering requests and cancellations:

  1. Purpose.

Resources must be a learning resource in support of either teaching or research.The aim is to strike a balance between supporting research and teaching.

  1. Degree and scope of interest.

Resources may be specific to supporting a group or individual, or may provide support across a number of levels of study and disciplines. The aim is to strike a balance between meeting specific needs and developing the collection generally to provide better overall support.

Usage figures from trials and for existing resources (where available) can give an indication of this, but are not the sole determinant. It is recognised that resources in support of research may have lower usage figures. Usage of a resource will generally be compared with similar types of resources within the same or similar discipline.

  1. Existing provision.

New acquisitions should fill weaknesses in our existing provision. Areas that are already strongly provided for will be given less weight. If a requested resource largely duplicates the function or content of an existing resource, it may be necessary to choose between the two.

  1. Suitability.

The resource should be of sufficient quality and performance. If an e-resource, it should be compatible with our IT infrastructure, lend itself to discovery through LibrarySearch, and support Campus-wide access and off-campus access. It should have accessibility features, and ideally the vendor should be able to supply usage statistics. The license terms must be acceptable to the College.

  1. Format.

If a print resource, electronic alternatives will be preferred if available in accordance with our collection development policy. The Library reserves the right to stop acquiring, or reduce acquisition of items in obsolete formats.

  1. Cost.

The Library must operate within its annual grant for Learning Resources. The Library must also ensure that available budget for taking on new acquisitions is used to meet requests from across the departments. The Library recognises that resources in some disciplines are generally more expensive than comparable resources in others: this will be taken into account. Some apparently ‘one-off’ purchases may carry some ongoing costs (i.e. hosting fees, annual updates) and the impact of these will also be taken into account.

Funding for particularly expensive new acquisitions may be applied for through the annual Planning Round. If this is a continuing resource, then the Library will apply for a grant for a permanent uplift or for several year’s funding, unless a cancellation can be made. Requests for such resources are best received by the end of November at the latest so applications to the Planning Round can be made.

  1. Feasibility of acquisition.

In rare cases it may be that a resource is impossible to acquire, despite the Library’s best efforts to do so.

This document was written by Philip Bower, Acting Head of Acquisitions and Journals & Databases Coordinator, and Leanne Workman, Head of Academic Liaison. December 2018.

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