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Subscription Review Initiative: SRI Home

SRI: March 2013 - February 2015

This two-year project came to an close at the end of February 2015.  The goal was to ensure that every subscription up for renewal within the timeframe was given careful consideration and evaluation before being renewed.  We looked for opportunities to reduce costs by cancelling under-used or unnecessary subscriptions.

It turned out to be a very valuable (although time-consuming) experience.  We identified several costly databases that we could do without, with little inconvenience - mostly older databases that had considerable overlap with newer ones.  We also cancelled a few that, while valuable, were not getting enough use to validate their cost.  Many individual print subscriptions were cancelled or converted to online, because print journals require space and staff time to manage, but they are rarely used.  See our "Cancelled" and "Renewed" lists in the tabs above.

We reduced our annual subscription costs by over $160,000 - a bit shy of our $200,000 goal, but still formidable.  What will we do with this money?  Well, we've used it to cover costs that had already been incurred.  With the dropping Canadian dollar, annual increases in all purchases, and a reduced annual budget, we needed this money to make ends meet. A few new subscriptions were added, to cover new programs or courses.  When the University adds new programs, our Library budget isn't increased, so we're simply dividing the funds into smaller pieces.

Although this project is over, we'll continue to evaluate subscriptions that appear to have high costs or low usage.  When these come up for renewal, we'll contact relevant departments to invite your feedback.

Bottom Line

Since the project began in March 2013:

Renewed: $847,200

Cancelled: $160,900

New Purchases

This guide considers only renewals to existing subscriptions.  Information about new subscriptions and purchases is on the New Purchases guide.

Send Your Comments

Please send your comments on any of the items posted in the SRI.


The Project

February 2015 will mark the end of this project. While we will continue to monitor the renewal of subscriptions regularly, we won't maintain this close examination and public posting of every subscription. A summary of the project will be posted in the Spring.

The Subscription Review Initiative (SRI) began in March of 2013.  It requires an evaluation of EVERY ongoing subscription in the Library over a two-year period, as it comes up for renewal.  No subscription is automatically renewed without consideration.

The goals of the SRI are to:

  • ensure that Library funds are being used effectively;
  • openly share information with our users (within the boundaries of legal contracts) and invite feedback;
  • identify the level of use of our resources;
  • reduce spending by cancelling subscriptions which are not cost-effective, necessary, or highly used.

Please send your comments to

US Dollar Exchange Rate

The overwhelming majority of our resources are priced in US dollars, and this is the price we use on this guide.  Therefore, the exchange rate has a serious affect on our budget. 

A subscription with a 3% increase (which is considered good)  is more like an 8% increase this year.

For the 2014-15 academic year, the Library's budget was reduced by 2%.


March 2013

For many years, the Trent University Library has struggled to maintain credible research and teaching collections in the face of annual budget cuts and steady increases in the cost of scholarly research sources. Thanks in part to cost- and resource-sharing initiatives such as the OCUL Scholars Portal, CRKN, and RACER/interlibrary loans, Trent has been able to acquire and maintain credible research information resources in spite of the University’s financial challenges.

However, the Library must now take bold steps to reduce annual acquisitions expenses by a significant amount in order to ensure the sustainability of the collections in future years.

Consequently, the Library will be implementing a major process we are calling the Subscription Review Initiative, or SRI.

The SRI will involve a systematic review of all subscriptions: consortially-purchased e-journals, individually acquired subscriptions to digital and print-based journals and reference materials, and serial titles in other formats. We are developing a standard template for this analysis, to take into account usage metrics; cost per article accessed; to gauge impacts on interlibrary loan services should a title be discontinued; to identify anticipated impacts on current teaching and research programs; to highlight alternative information sources available to the primary audience(s), etc.

Our goal is to be as transparent as possible and to encourage feedback from the Trent academic community.

This webpage serves to provide reports on products as we proceed, and feedback channels to encourage faculty and students to interact with us in this venture. 

We have identified $200,000 – or 20% of the annual acquisitions budget – as the target amount to be recovered from the cancellation of subscriptions. While this amount may seem excessive, keep in mind that we are already overspending our available budget due to cost increases and inflation. We are projecting a $100,000 overspend next year if we do not take bold action to contain escalating subscription costs. We are also anticipating increases in the currency exchange rate over the next few years, with the result that costs could rise a further 2-4%.

To be clear: this initiative is not part of any annual budget reduction strategy. Any reductions to the Library’s annual budget will be additional to the reductions identified during the SRI. 

The Subscription Review Initiative starts immediately, and will continue for two years.

Journal Cancellations at Brock University Library

December 2014

Brock University Library recently announced their decision NOT to renew the large Wiley-Blackwell package of e-journals, in order to balance their acquisitions budget.

See their announcement.

The Trent Library is not alone in its struggle to maintain current subscriptions, but so far we've been able to avoid such a drastic measure.  The SRI has been an essential part of our budget decision-making process.

CRKN 3-Year Deals

June 2014 is an active month for the SRI, as 3-year deals from CRKN (Canadian Research Knowledge Network) are up for renewal. CRKN is a national consortium, generally negotiating deals with a significant cost benefit to participants. 

In some cases these deals will change, possibly adding or deleting content.  Trent will choose whether to join the new deal, negotiate our own deal, or not participate (cancelling the subscription).

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Moving Into the Second Year

January 2014

The SRI began in March 2013, which means we're coming to the end of our first year. Our goal was to save $200,000 through the cancellation of subscriptions.  As of January 2014, we saved over $108,000.  We're pleased with this success, and the money is being used to cover our existing subscriptions this year. 

The majority of our subscriptions were reviewed during this year, but some slipped through because they aren't renewed yearly.  The SRI was designed to be a 2-year project, and it continues for another year.  By this time next year we expect to have reviewed all our subscriptions and have our budget in a healthier state.

For the upcoming year:

  • Subscriptions that were renewed last year will be re-visited this year. 
    • If they are still cost effective and relevant, they will be renewed again.
    • If they were borderline last year, we'll be looking for improved usage to validate our decision to keep them.  If it's not there, they are candidates for cancellation this year.
  • Subscriptions that are renewed every other year will be considered this year.

Thanks to everyone who posted comments on the guide pages (and those who sent private emails), which helped guide our decisions.  Please continue to monitor this guide and share your thoughts.

ProQuest Databases

Many ProQuest databases were up for renewal in early December.  We get a lot of databases through ProQuest:

  • Some are composed of multiple sub-sets, many of which are included in several titles. 
  • Some come at a reduced price because we subscribe to some others. 
  • Some have been part of our collection since the first early days of online databases, with no ongoing evaluation. 

Each title was considered in terms of  what it includes and how much is overlap with another resource.  Many of them are abstracting & indexing (A&I) databases, containing no full text.  If the full text resource (e.g. Scholars Portal Journals) is searchable, do we need the index or is it just adding a step?

Usage statistics for these databases are misleading, because while each database can be searched individually by following a link from our website, the entire group can also be searched at once.  We know that a large number of students choose to search "ALL" databases rather than selecting a few relevant titles.  A search like this will count in each of the ProQuest databases, whether it finds useful results or not.

  • Because of this issue, we considered a different kind of statistic for the A&I databases.  We looked at the number of times a user clicked "Get It! Trent" to link to full text.  This is called a "request" and it indicates that a potentially useful article was found in the database.
Comparison Statistics for Get It! Trent "Requests" by Database Source:
In 2013, 82% of requests came from these databases (# of requests is in brackets):
  • 25% : E-Journals A-Z (93,903) - this is the recommended way to find a journal when you have a citation
  • 13% : PsycINFO (49,882)
  • 11% : Web of Science / Web of Knowledge (43,700)
  • 10% : Google / Google Scholar (38,224)
  • 8% : CINAHL (30,301)
  • 5% : Academic Search Elite (18,505)
  • 4% : Scholars Portal Journals (13,584)
  • 3% : Medline (12,090)
  • 3% : Sociological Abstracts (10,583)
All the rest of the databases have <1%  (under 7,000 requests) each.  Total requests for all databases: 381,180.

A page on this guide has been created for each ProQuest database evaluated.  Please see the public comments we received on each page, and enter your comments on the pages of interest to you.

Decisions were made by end of December 2013.

Legal Resources

Update November 27, 2013:

We have cancelled about $20,000 worth of print (hard-copy) legal resources and a new subscription to LexisNexis Academic Plus is set to begin in January 2014.  There is no cost savings to this move, but we hope the resources will be more accessible and better used in this format.  We'll look at the usage statistics after a year and evaluate.

We're also setting up a trial for HEINOnline, another provider of legal resources.  Stay tuned for an update.

What if we replaced all our print legal resources with an online LexisNexis product?

We need your input on this.  We have a one-month trial for two LexisNexis products and we need to know your opinion.

See the Legal Resources guide for links to the trial and a list of paper resources we could cancel.  Please post your comments on the page.