Frequently Asked Questions


Looking for an overview? Check out our quick facts handout. 

What’s the timeline for this process?

The COVID crisis has accelerated our timeline. To meet budget needs, we began negotiations with Elsevier in late 2020. Other negotiations will soon follow. 

Who else is involved?

Research libraries at seven Virginia institutions are working together on this: UVA, VCU, VT, William & Mary, JMU, GMU, ODU. We share an Elsevier contract and often work together on other deals. Other libraries who have challenged big vendors in the last year include the University of California system, Florida State University, Louisiana State University, UNC Chapel Hill, MIT, and many others in the US, plus the national library consortia in Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. 

Are you going to walk away completely like California did?

We are still formulating the details of our strategy, but we do share their overall, long-term goals: lowering cost and increasing access. We are preparing to make big changes if necessary to spur the vendors toward reform, while continuing to meet research needs.

Are you going to cancel [my favorite journal]?

We are using 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. Whether we drop titles from our subscription package depends on how our negotiations play out, but in any case we will work to ensure that researchers have access to the resources they need.

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. 

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. We will share our findings as we continue to process the data that 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 ManifestoFind out more ways to take action.