26,000 journals at risk of vanishing

Access to over 26000 electronic journals is under threat following the expiry of funding agreements.
The Irish Research eLibrary, which provides digital access to 18000 journals in the humanities and social sciences and 6000 in science, medicine and technology is funded jointly by the Higher Education Authority and Science Foundation Ireland. The funding agreements expired in December, with an expected cut of up to 75% announced.
“The funding authorities indicated that continued funding for the service would be very significantly reduced, which would lead to greatly restricted access for researchers across all disciplines,” said Robin Adams, Trinity Librarian.
“College officers and Fellows were briefed on the situation and there has been much activity within Trinity and in other universities, arising from the real concern at the negative impact of this on research activity, and also on teaching, as many of the resources provided are also used by students and in undergraduate and postgraduate coursework.”
The library is not managed by Trinity, but by the Irish Universities Association Librarian’s Group. As such, the negotiation of any new agreement goes beyond any single university.
In an e-mail to postgraduate students and staff, Postgraduate Director of Teaching and Learning Stephen Connon said “if funds are not found for this (either from the university or the HEA) we will very much end up holding the short straw. Most of you are not here long enough to have been postgraduates before we had widespread access, but please take my assurances that not being able to access the literature the instant a paper appears is a very serious handicap in the modern, mostly electronic era.”
The IReL initiative provides access to many of the most popular electronic resources in college, including JSTOR, LexisNexis, and the publications of the British Medical Journal group. Although there is still access to such resources from the library’s website, the IReL database lists these contracts as expired. It is unclear what the official status of this access is. There exists a list, circulated by the Librarian, which details the expected likelihood of cancellation for a number of resources. This list was not available to Trinity News when requested.
Student’s Union Education Officer Ashley Cooke confirmed that he “had received a number of complaints from final year students and postgraduate research students, particularly in the natural and health sciences, that they could not access eJournals and in some cases had to purchase essential journals themselves.”
At a meeting of the University Council last Wednesday, the issue was raised by a number of academic staff.
“Council were told that IUA were negotiating to get the service returned. Nothing was mentioned about the source of the funding to be provided for the return of the STM phase,” said Cooke.
“No deal has been reached as of yet,” he confirmed.
Adams is also optimistic about the impact of the cuts.
“The HEA has indicated that there will be a significant amelioration to the funding reduction, which is very good news. The IUA Librarians’ Group is in regular contact with HEA on the precise situation, and awaits confirmation of the final budget.”
There is, however, no provision from within Trinity for further funding in the event that IUA negotiations prove unsuccessful, according to Adams.
“As the anticipated funding will not equate to the current investment and journal subscription rates continue to increase, there will inevitably be some cancellations of subscriptions and we are preparing to identify which titles will be involved.”
The IReL scheme was originally set up with seed funding from SFI in 2004, to which the HEA added funding for the humanities in 2006.
The expected shortfall is thought to number in the millions of euro, though no exact figures are available as negotiations continue.