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Observations from the 2010 SSP Librarian Focus Group

Reported by Barry Davis, The Sheridan Group bdavis@tsp.sheridan.com

The 6th Annual Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP) Librarian Focus Group was held in Washington, DC on February 2, 2010.  A panel of six librarians — representing different institutions, roles, and library types — addressed a broad range of pre-established library issues for the SSP member audience.

Topics included budgets, conversion from print to electronic resources, eBooks, institutional repositories, Open Access, changes in how patrons access content, and the “library of the future.”

Last year’s meeting was replete with ominous warnings of draconian budget reductions affecting journal subscriptions and group discussion regarding threats to existing publishing models.  From the perspective of those working in the STM journal publishing marketplace, this year’s Focus Group was notable for the number of panelist comments that reflected comparative stability rather than impending upheaval.

For example:

  • The entire panel agreed that Open Access is not a factor in collections development at this time.
  • There were multiple references to “flat” budgets, but no projections of dramatic reductions.
  • One librarian reported that serials were spared from recent cost reduction efforts. 

(It should be noted that all librarians described fiscal challenges associated with their libraries and affiliated institutions.  The comments were simply less alarming when compared to 2009.)

Panelists described enhanced focus on usage statistics, strong preference for electronic resources over print in most subject areas, the need to provide access to content on readers’ smartphones, and more frequent use of document delivery.  The publishing professionals in attendance were encouraged to provide all supplemental materials, data sets, etc. to ensure the journal of record is reflected in the document delivery purchase/interlibrary loan deliverable.

Several librarians described a dependence on grants for collection development.  “Help us get donors,” was the response to the question, “What can publishers do to help librarians?”  It was observed that if publishers could help librarians secure funding; there would be a link to the retention of journal subscriptions.

Looking ahead, the panelists predicted that the “library of the future” will need to re-calibrate to serve a generation that will no longer be textually oriented, provide access to resources that re-define the term “search,” and perhaps trend away from staff with MLS credentials.

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