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Journal Sustainability: Virginia Research Libraries and Big Deals

Information about negotiations with Elsevier.

Sustainable Scholarship Virtual Forum Oct. 2, 2020


Virginia's Research Libraries Host Virtual Forum in Advance of Elsevier Negotiations

Representatives from seven Virginia research libraries (VRL) will soon begin contract negotiations with Elsevier, the largest science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) scholarly publisher, to lower the cost of accessing its academic journals and to discuss options to make our universities' research more accessible to the public that paid for it.

The five-year, $45 million contract between Elsevier and the VRL -- Old Dominion University, the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth University, George Mason University, William and Mary, and James Madison University -- renews in December 2021. But budget reductions caused by the pandemic mean the VRL needs to renegotiate the final year of the current contract.

On Oct. 2 at 9:30 a.m., the VRL hosts a Sustainable Scholarship Virtual Forum to share information about the group's collective priorities concerning equity, accessibility, and the costs of bundled scholarly journal packages. Forum moderator Brandon Butler, the University of Virginia Library's Director of Information Policy, will also pose discussion questions to the panel.

Panelists include:

  • Carrie Cooper, Dean of University Libraries, William and Mary
  • Stuart Frazer, Interim University Librarian, Old Dominion University
  • Teresa L. Knott, Interim Dean of Libraries and University Librarian, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Bethany Nowviskie, Dean of Libraries, James Madison University
  • John Unsworth, Dean of Libraries and University Librarian, University of Virginia
  • Tyler Walters, Dean of University Libraries, Virginia Tech
  • John Zenelis, Dean of Libraries and University Librarian, George Mason University

Registration is open to interested faculty, staff, students, and community members. Attendees can submit questions or discussion topics about negotiation priorities and sustainable scholarship in advance through the forum's registration site.

"This is an opportunity to learn more about the upcoming negotiations, the libraries' priorities surrounding equitable access to scholarship, the impact of changing models on access to research, and why the costs of large bundled journal packages are unsustainable. We will also discuss the possible futures of scholarly publishing," Butler said. "As a group, we are working together to find the best solutions to continue to be responsible stewards of state funds while providing our faculty and students with the informational resources they need to research, teach, and learn."

Stuart Frazer, ODU's Interim University Librarian, said the pandemic forced what was an inevitable reconsideration of the Elsevier contract. "Periods of crisis challenge institutions to question orthodoxy and creatively restructure themselves," he said. "Scholars, creators, universities and libraries have the tools and framework at hand to end reliance on commercial publishers that do not serve their interests. There has never been a better opportunity to promote open access to knowledge."

Discussions with faculty and administrators at ODU began last year, but we know we have not reached everyone. A video version of our presentation is available for those who want to know more about the situation at ODU (contact Karen Vaughan,

Interested faculty, staff, students, and community members are encouraged to register and attend the Sustainable Scholarship Virtual Forum to learn more.


Forum Resources:

Condensed edited 11-minute version:

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