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Revised Statement on the Global Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Consortial Licenses

Issue Date

This ICOLC statement has been translated into:

(Statement reissued June 14, 2010. Originally issued January 19, 2009.)


Preamble added June 2010


The ICOLC is reissuing its Statement on the Global Economic Crisis to update information providers on the state of library and library consortia budgets in 2010.  The updates below reinforce the ICOLC Statement in three substantial ways.


1.      ICOLC did not overestimate the severity of cuts to library and library consortia funding levels in its original Statement.  Furthermore, we believe the worst may still be before us, as US state governments suffer the loss of stimulus funds and continued weak regional economies.  All parts of the world are facing negative economic repercussions from the European debt crisis.  The need for pricing restraint and options remains paramount.


2.      Fifty ICOLC member groups from around the world have participated in an anonymous survey to measure 2009 to 2010 price changes from over 30 major vendors and publishers of electronic databases and journals.  This survey reveals that 38% of the price changes provided price control in the form of 1% increases or less.  Seven percent (7%) of the price changes provided price reductions.  We wish to commend those suppliers who have worked with libraries and consortia to contain prices.  However, significant room for improvement remains.  Some suppliers have done a much better job of containing prices than others. We call upon the full range of suppliers to show price restraint in 2010-2011 to enable customers to sustain as many information resource licenses as possible.


3.      We take this opportunity to highlight the added potential negative impact of exclusivity on prices, as well as access.  A new Principle 3 on page 3 of this document expresses the strongly held belief of ICOLC members that, over the long-term, multiple distribution channels for licensed content provide the most affordable and suitable options for access across diverse library communities.


See the list at the end of this statement for a current list of consortia endorsing the 2010 Economic Statement and updates.


Original January 2009 Statement


Written on behalf of the many library consortia across the world that participate in the ICOLC, this statement has two purposes.  It is intended to help publishers and other content providers from whom we license electronic information resources (hereafter simply referred to as publishers) understand better how the current unique financial crisis affects the worldwide information community.  Its second purpose is to suggest a range of approaches that we believe are in the mutual best interest of libraries and the providers of information services.


The ICOLC library consortia consider the current crisis of such significance that we cannot simply assume that libraries and publishers share a common perspective about the magnitude of the crisis and the best approaches to cope with it.  ICOLC members have been exchanging perspectives about how the current economic recession will impact consortia and their libraries.  We make the following forecasts about the impact of this crisis on libraries and library consortia.


1.  We expect significant and widespread cuts in budget levels for libraries and consortia:  reductions unlike the sporadic or regional episodes experienced from year to year, with real and permanent reductions to base budgets.  It may not be uncommon for library and consortia budgets to decline by double digits year over year.  We have yet to see the full effects, as many 2009 journal and database subscriptions have already been renewed.  As of late 2008, many institutions have declared significant budgets cuts in all areas (content, staff, and operations) for 2009.  Some consortia are experiencing significant economic impact in the current fiscal year; by calendar and fiscal 2010, the cuts will be in full force and widespread.


2.  These cuts will be prolonged.  The public and education sectors will likely lag in funding recovery.  Once funding is withdrawn over multiple years, it will be years before budgets climb back toward pre-crisis levels.


3.  Exchange rate fluctuations are complicating and in some cases amplifying the impact.


We encourage publishers to recognize these fundamentally different circumstances as we work together for the benefit of all parties.  Library consortia are uniquely positioned to be the most effective and efficient means to preserve the customer base for publishers and create solutions that provide the greatest good for the greatest number.  By working together, publishers and consortia can create the most effective pricing and renewal options and maintain the broadest base of subscribing libraries and services.


While we cannot be prescriptive where solutions are concerned, we suggest the following principles and techniques as likely to be the most effective approaches.


Principle 1:  Flexible pricing that offers customers real options, including the ability to reduce expenditures without disproportionate loss of content, will be the most successful.  In stable times, standardized pricing and terms may work relatively well.  Today, purchasers will be under heavy pressure to reduce their outlays and need solutions that let them do so while continuing to offer as much content and service as possible.  It is in the publisher’s best interest that we avoid all-or-nothing, take-it-or-leave-it decisions and options, whose lack of flexibility is likely to result in far greater damage than is absolutely necessary.


Principle 2:  It is in the best interest of both publishers and consortia to seek creative solutions that allow licenses to remain as intact as possible, without major content or access reductions.  Content, once discontinued, will be very difficult to reinstate at a later date. While there may be practical limits to this principle, publishers, authors, scholars, and libraries will be best served by those solutions that retain as much access to as much content as possible.


Principle 3 (added June 2010) We encourage publishers to allow their content to be made available through numerous vendors appropriate for their subject matter.  We also encourage online providers and aggregators to allow their metadata to be included in emerging discovery layer services on a non-exclusive basis.  Multiple access platforms will permit libraries and consortia to select content and discovery tools that are suitable and affordable for their constituents. We encourage vendors to provide options that match the range of needs that libraries have for any particular content as to degree of importance, currency, interfaces, access, archiving, preservation and metadata. It is in the common interest of publishers, database vendors, consortia, libraries and information consumers to work collectively to provide affordable access to licensed content, while preserving the businesses integral to our collective success.


With these principles in mind, we suggest the following approaches:


1.  Purchasers will trade features for price; that is, we can do without costly new interfaces and features.  This is not a time for new products.  Marketing efforts for new products will have only limited effects, if any at all.  Libraries will have few if any resources to invest in new titles or more content elements.  Publishers who work with the scholarly communities to understand what content is critically needed will be the most successful.


2.   Putting price first will help all parties, because budget pressures will drive decisions in a way never seen before.  Real price reductions will be welcomed and can help to sustain relationships through the hard times.


Even increases at inflation levels will not be supportable by many groups and libraries.  Other approaches and options must be considered and made available.  Some options may be uniquely created to take advantage of local situations.  Therefore:


3.  Tailoring content to need and pricing accordingly can be very helpful.  For example, customized approaches that look to usage patterns as the basis for an adjustment may be equitable for all parties.  In the case of tiered pricing schedules, applying this flexibly to core content packages in combination with more affordable pricing for single titles may create another affordable option.  Multiple, creative options are needed so that library consortia can work with their members to fashion the optimal purchase level.


4.  Multi-year contracts will be possible only with clear opt-out and/or reduction clauses.  As difficult as these clauses can be, the only alternative for many institutions will be year-to-year (or even shorter term) licenses.  These increase the administrative overheads for all parties and may encourage further reductions.  Additionally, opt-out clauses must as well recognize the need for a flexible set of reduction techniques that avoid penalizing customers in either the long or short term.


5.  While annual payments currently are the most prevalent payment schedule for group licenses, options will be needed for semi-annual or quarterly payment schedules, in combination with more flexible opt-out/reduction clauses and renewal cycles.  Libraries and consortia may have very little warning of changes in their budgets.  Payment options are a necessary precaution in light of rapidly changing financial circumstances and expectations.


*  *  *


In combination, we suggest these approaches as a way to advance the conversations among libraries, consortia and publishers, who all hope to preserve existing relationships, provide as much information to users, and generate as much business as budgets will allow.  We believe our recommendations provide a solid foundation for the information community, including the publishers of scholarly information, to go forward together in these difficult times.


The current situation may in the long term serve as a catalyst that challenges publishers, scholars and libraries to create a system that will more efficiently produce and disseminate the growing output of global scholarship.

Contact Persons

Faye Abrams, OCUL Projects Officer, Ontario Council of University Libraries, 416-978-4211,

Ivy Anderson, Director, Collections, California Digital Library, University of California, Office of the President, (510) 987-0334,

Diane Costello, Executive Officer, CAUL (Council of Australian University Librarians), +61 2 6125 2990,

Marlene Sue Heroux, Reference Information Systems Specialist, Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, 617-725-1860 ext. 250,

Ed McBride, Chief Member Engagement Officer, LYRASIS, 404-892-0943 ext. 4864,

Arnold Verhagen, University Librarian University of Amsterdam, and Licensing Consultant UKB-consortium, +31 5252307 or +31 611292816,

Hazel  Woodward, University Librarian and Director of the University Press, Cranfield University, +44 (0) 1234 754446,

Endorsing Organizations

This statement is adopted in principle by member representatives of consortia of the "International Coalition of Library Consortia" (ICOLC) that are listed below as of September 6, 2010:

CAUL (Council of Australian University Librarians), Australia
Electronic Resources Australia, Australia
UNILINC Limited, Australia
Austrian Academic Consortium (Kooperation E-Medien Oesterreich), Austria
BICfB (Bibliothèque interuniversitaire de la communauté française de Belgique - Belgium), Belgium
Flemish Research Libraries Council (VOWB), Belgium
BC Electronic Library Network, Canada
Canadian Research Knowledge Network (CRKN), Canada
Conférence des recteurs et des principaux des universités du Québec(Conference of Rectors and Principals of Universities of Quebec) – CREPUQ, Canada
Council of Atlantic University Libraries, Canada
Council of Prairie and Pacific University Libraries (COPPUL), Canada
Electronic Health Library of British Columbia (e-HLbc), Canada
Health Science Information Consortium of Toronto, Canada
OCUL (Ontario Council of University Libraries), Canada
Ontario Colleges Library Service, Canada
Saskatchewan Multitype Database Licensing Program, Canada
The Alberta Library, Canada
Alerta al Conocimiento, Chile
"Denmark's Electronic Research Library,  DEFF", Denmark
FinELib, Finland
COUPERIN (Consortium universitaire des publications numériques), France
Helmholtz Konsortium, Germany
Nordrhein-Westfalen-Konsortium, Germany
JULAC (Joint Universities Librarians Advisory Committee), Hong Kong
AMICAL (American International Consortium of Academic Libraries), International
IRIS The Consortium of Irish University and  Research Libraries, Ireland
MALMAD – Israel Inter-University  Center for Digital Information Services, Israel
CIPE, Italy
Conference of the Italian Rectors- Electronic Resources Working Group, Italy
Coordinamento Interuniversitario Basi dati & Editoria in Rete (CIBER), Italy
INFER - Italian Forum on Electronic Resources, Italy
Lebanese Academic Library Consortium (LALC), Lebanon
Lithuanian Research Library Consortium, Lithuania, Multi-national
Consortium of Dutch University Libraries and the National Library (UKB), Netherlands
EPIC (Electronic Purchasing in Collaboration), New Zealand
ABM-utvikling (The Norwegian Archive. Library and Museum Authority), Norway
"Norwegian Health Library Consortium,  The", Norway
Oslo University Hospital Consortia, Norway
PFSL (Poznan Foundation of Scientific Libraries), Poland
Fundação para a Computação Ciêntifica Nacional (FCCN), Portugal
NEICON, Russia
Centralna tehniska knjiznica Univerze v Ljubljani (The Central Technological Library at the University  of Ljubljana), Slovenia
COSEC (Consortium of Slovenian Electronic Collections), Slovenia
SANLiC (South African National Library and Information Consortium), South Africa
CBUC-Consorci de Biblioteques Universitàries de Catalunya / Consortium of Academic Libraries of Catalonia, Spain
CSIC Library NETWORK. Spanish National Research Council, Spain
BIBSAM, Sweden
Consortium of Swiss Academic Libraries, Switzerland
CONCERT - CONsortium on Core Electronic Resources in Taiwan, Taiwan
ANKOS (Anatolian University Library  Consortium), Turkey
JISC Collections, United Kingdom
Reference Task Group (RTG) of the Co-South Consortium, United Kingdom
Scottish Confederation of University and Research Libraries (SCURL), United Kingdom
"Society of College,  National and University Libraries        ", United Kingdom and Ireland
ALI (Academic Libraries of Indiana), USA
ALICE (Adventist Library Information Cooperative), USA
Amigos Library Services, USA
Arizona Universities Library Consortium (AULC), USA
"Boston Library Consortium,  Inc.", USA
Califa Library Group, USA
California Digital Library (CDL), USA
California State University – Systemwide Electronic Information Resources, USA
CARLI (Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois), USA
"Carolina Consortium,  The", USA
CIC (Committee on Institutional Cooperation), USA
College Center for Library Automation, USA
Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries, USA
Colorado Library Consortium (CLiC), USA
Community College Library Consortium (CCLC), USA
ConnectNY, USA
Cooperating Libraries in Consortium (CLIC), USA
DISCUS – South Carolina’s Virtual Library, USA
Federation of Kentucky Academic Libraries (FoKAL), USA
Florida Center for Library Automation, USA
Greater Western Library Alliance (GWLA), USA
INFOhio - The Information Network for Ohio Schools, USA
Kentucky Virtual Library (KYVL), USA
LOUIS: The Louisiana Library Network, USA
Maine InfoNet, USA
Maryland Digital Library, USA
Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, USA
Massachusetts Health Science Library Network (MAHSLIN), USA
Mid-America Law Library Consortium (MALLCO), USA
Midwest Collaborative for Library Services (MCLS), USA
Minitex (Library Information Network), USA
Missouri Library Network Corporation (MLNC), USA
MOBIUS Consortium (Missouri), USA
NERL (NorthEast Research Libraries Consortium), USA
Network of Alabama Academic Libraries, USA
Nevada Academic Library Consortium (NCAL), USA
New York State Higher Education Initiative , USA
New York Three Rs Association, USA
Nylink, USA
OhioLINK (Ohio Library and Information Network), USA
OPLIN (Ohio Public Library Information Network), USA
Orbis Cascade Alliance, USA
PASCAL (Partnership Among South Carolina Academic Libraries) , USA
"Pennsylvania Academic Library Consortium,  Inc.  (PALCI)", USA
SAALCK (State Assisted Academic Library Council of Kentucky), USA
"SCELC,  the Statewide California Electronic Library Consortium", USA
South Central Academic Medical Libraries Consortium (SCAMeL), USA
Tenn-Share, USA
TexShare, USA
The City University of New York, USA
Triangle Research Libraries Network (TRLN), USA
University of Missouri Library System, USA
University of Texas System Digital Library, USA
Utah Academic Library Consortium, USA
Virtual Academic Library Environment of New Jersey (VALE), USA
VIVA (The Virtual Library of Virginia), USA
Washington Research Library Consortium (WRLC), USA
Washington State Cooperative Library Project, USA
WiLS (Wisconsin Library Services), USA


The International Coalition of Library Consortia (ICOLC) is an informal, self-organized group currently comprising approximately 200 library consortia in North and South America, Europe, Australia, Asia, and Africa. The member consortia serve all types and sizes of libraries. ICOLC has been in existence since 1996.

ICOLC supports participating consortia by facilitating discussion on issues of common interest. Twice per year ICOLC conducts meetings dedicated to keeping participating consortia informed about new electronic information resources, pricing practices of electronic information providers and vendors, and other issues of importance to directors, governing boards, and libaries of consortia. From time to time ICOLC also issues statements regarding topics which affect libraries and library consortia.