TU Delft Library recently purchased the electronic archives of the National Geographic Society.  All students and staff members at TU Delft can now access all the volumes of this iconic international publication from the period 1888 – 1994. Purchased?  No, not quite. That is a model that is not used by this journal, and so what we have done instead is lease this contract for a period of 20 years until June 2032. A novelty for our collection.

Rental or purchase

Wonderful material you will say, but why offer this journal while at the same time often refusing proposals for new subscriptions? This is all connected to the annual obligations of our collection. TU Delft Library has an annual budget for acquiring academic literature. Only a modest part of this budget can be used to purchase material in the form of books, reference works and archives. This material remains in the possession of the university ‘in perpetuity’; in the case of National Geographic, in the form of a long-term lease contract that we pay in advance. The major part of the collection budget is spent on annual obligations in the form of subscriptions.

Selective choices

For a number of years, TU Delft’s collection has been centrally funded.  The benefits of this are that we can act more decisively without the need for time-consuming backroom meetings.  The negative side to this system is that faculties and academics are unaware of the way the collection is being built up and the costs involved.  Since many publishers continue to work on the basis of growth models – increasing their annual turnover – increased cost awareness among academics is essential. This is needed so that selective choices can be made from the overwhelming range of material offered by publishers. It is impossible for TU Delft’s collection to keep up with this growth in the market. Our task is to consolidate the collection and inevitably also to reorganise components of our collection on the basis of quality and usage. For that matter, collection building as a scarce resource is a reflection of our economic situation.

Academics will also need to contribute

In time, large-scale Open Access can become an interesting, alternative business model, whereby authors consciously contribute a small part of the research budget to publish their work. At present, we have a centrally financed Open Access Fund, but in future much more money will be contributed by the faculties than by financiers for publishing research results. In addition to many more advantages, Open Access also offers an opportunity to get academics more involved in the publication and dissemination of their results.

Text and illustration: Just de Leeuwe (Product Manager TU Delft Library)