Criteria for the Selection of Subscriptions

College of Saint Benedict/Saint John's University

July 2013


The purpose of this document is to provide a usable framework to inform decisions regarding subscriptions to databases, journals, and other licensed information sources provided by the Library. Although there are a variety of types of resources that fall under the general term “subscriptions” they are similar enough to warrant a general adherence to the principles described below.

  1. The subscription is determined by the collection development librarian, liaison librarians, and faculty in the related departments, where applicable.

  2. The Library will provide access to the resources that are most central to supporting the academic mission of the institution, including access to the key resources in each discipline for which a major or minor is offered, as well as interdisciplinary resources which support the general mission of the library.

  3. Whenever possible, access to licensed resources should be available for an unlimited number of simultaneous users, exceptions being made when it is not financially or otherwise feasible. This allows for the use of the material in courses involving a number of students.

  4. Whenever possible, access to licensed resources should not be burdened by the use of Digital Rights Management software (DRM) unless no alternatives to the DRM exist for the material.

  5. Whenever possible, licensed resources should permit sharing within the guidelines described commonly as “fair use.”

  6. The cost of the resource must be sustainable by the budget for the foreseeable future. Resources with high inflation rates, especially those above 5%, should be carefully evaluated to determine their overall centrality to our mission. Procedures should be put in place to explore alternatives.

  7. The mode of sale for journals known commonly as the “Big Deal” whereby packages are created inclusive of all or most content provided by the publisher should generally be avoided in preference to a selective and targeted purchase of individual journals, except in cases where it is not financially feasible based upon our usage of the package.

  8. The Library will participate in a consortia license of a resource when the agreement provides an advantage over an individual subscription. Specific consortia include, but are not limited to: Minitex, Oberlin Group, MTLA, MnPALS.

  9. For cumulative content such as journals the vendor should provide for archival access to the content through Portico or a similar service.

  10. Priority is to be assigned to not-for-profit and society publishers, recognizing our partnership with them in the system of academic and scholarly communication.

  11. In the case of third-party databases, a change of vendors will be considered when a new vendor can deliver a superior search interface, offer the same product at a significantly lower cost, or provide other key benefits over the current vendor.

  12. Usage reports should be regularly examined to confirm that the product is being used adequately.

  13. The uniqueness of a particular subscription will be considered in weighing its value.

  14. When recommending cuts to subscriptions, alternative scenarios and the effect upon the quality of library service should be considered.