Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum from the Eastern Confederation of Library and Knowledge Services Alliance

  1.  The Alliance was formed in 2002 and comprises of Library and Knowledge professionals employed in the NHS in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. NHS libraries are one of the main purchasers of scientific publications in paper and electronic form and a large proportion of our public funding is expended on this resource.

  2.  The cost of paper journals over the past ten years has far outstripped the inflation increases to library budgets. Figures compiled by Loughborough University show that paper journal prices have increased by 158%. During the same period most libraries have only received inflationary increases and in some years no budget increase at all.

  3.  The publishers have justified the price increases by stating that they have included access to electronic versions of titles. In the majority of cases the libraries do not have any choice as to whether they want to pay for paper or electronic versions, as some publishers insist that electronic access can only be obtained if the library already pays for a paper version.

  4.  The publishers control access to the journal titles by single IP address recognition. This restricts usage within the NHS as security measures ensure that networked PCs are connected to the Internet by roaming IP addresses. To establish a single IP address recognition requires a PC to be set up outside the NHS network, hence incurring additional costs. This in turn means that libraries can only provide access to a limited number of users via one PC.

  5.  The question of archival access for electronic versions has not been resolved. Once a paper version is purchased it belongs to the library to retain or discard. Co-operative library schemes exist to ensure access to back runs of journal issues, such as the Eastern scheme or commercial ones, such as the British Library Document Supply Scheme. However electronic access is more problematic, once a library ceases to pay for the electronic version they lose access to those years that they did pay for. At present there is no electronic version of the print scheme.

February 2004

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Prepared 20 July 2004