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Frequently Asked Questions


This page includes information that was created for Elsevier negotiations that happened in 2020. It has been preserved for reference. For updated information on what the University Libraries is doing in open access, please visit our Access Matters webpage at the link below.

What’s the timeline for the next steps?

The VRL will continue to analyze data and work with our constituents, and will be back at the negotiating table in 2021 to pen a longer-term agreement

Who else is involved?

Research libraries at seven Virginia institutions worked on this: Virginia Tech, University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, College of William and Mary, James Madison University, George Mason University, and Old Dominion University. All of us are engaging our campus communities, as well. All the institutions involved are committed to working together and negotiating the best deal for our faculty and students, and ensuring that our research is shared openly with the world.

What makes these journal costs “unsustainable”?

Spending on commercial packages already represents an outsize proportion of our budget. The biggest vendors consume nearly half of our collections budget, up from 25% just 10 years ago. This inevitably forces reduced investments elsewhere in our collection. Continued growth at this rate would require our budget to double over the next decade, and we still couldn’t afford to serve emerging needs connected to new faculty, new research centers, and other initiatives. 

How did you decide what journals to cancel?

We selected titles based on download data, article citations by institutional authors, open access availability of articles, articles published by institutional authors, and library liaison input. The group also analyzed the projected costs of alternative access to those titles. We used a rich dataset that measures our journal usage along several axes in order to get a sense of the value of each title to our community. We also want to hear qualitative feedback on which titles you consider essential, why, and how you use them. 

How can I find the articles I need?

We retain access to articles through 2020 from most of the cancelled titles. Our Journals Index displays comprehensive and current coverage information for all titles owned or accessed by University Libraries.

There are many ways to find free versions of articles published in open journals or available through open institutional repositories. The University Libraries Access Matters alternative access webpage and LibGuide have a variety of tools and sources to help you get access to articles beyond our collection. And Interlibrary Loan, as always, is an option.

Will Interlibrary Loan be able to keep up with the demand if we don’t continue all of our subscriptions?

Yes. The Virtual Library of Virginia Consortium (VIVA) has invested in additional resources to expedite interlibrary loan requests, supplementing the multiple partnerships already in place. There are also document delivery systems that we can use, including buying articles directly from Elsevier. 

Will you be speaking to faculty across Virginia Tech about the changes?

Since spring 2019, University Libraries Dean Tyler Walters has been speaking with faculty groups across campus to inform the community about the negotiations with Elsevier. He continues to speak to faculty groups to inform and gather feedback. You can view his presentation slides on the University Libraries Access Matters Presentations webpage.

In October 2020, the group hosted a Sustainable Scholarship Virtual Forum to discuss the negotiations and upcoming changes. For information and to view a video summary of the event, visit the Sustainable Scholarship Virtual Forum page.

The University Libraries will continue to raise awareness about these changes and future negotiations with publishers through university-wide communications and on the library’s website.

What can I do to help?

Just knowing we have your support for our effort is very important to the Library. We will be looking for researchers’ input on the journals they value most—stay tuned for more on that as we continue to process the data we have. Some researchers have signaled their support for reform by joining or organizing protest activities, including boycotts. If you have an opportunity to influence promotion and tenure standards, we believe systemic reform of academic publishing will ultimately require decoupling research evaluation from journal prestige, following principles like those in the SF DORA and the Leiden Manifesto.