The effect of the crisis in scholarly communication on university libraries in South Africa.
Hoskins, Ruth Geraldine Melonie.
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The study examined the effect the crisis in scholarly communication had on university libraries in South Africa. The crisis in scholarly communication or the 'serials' crisis as it is better known to librarians has affected many academic libraries worldwide. The monopoly commercial publishers have on the academic serial/journal market has resulted in high priced subscriptions and many libraries have simply cancelled subscriptions or limited the purchase of monographs (books) to pay for ongoing journal subscriptions. A study population consisting of 17 university libraries in South Africa was surveyed by means of an online questionnaire to establish how university libraries in South Africa were affected by the crisis in scholarly communication. The research questions underpinning the study examined the cause of the crisis together with its characteristics, the factors that influenced journal cancellations, the effects of open access on journal cancellations, institutional support for open access repositories and the funding of university library budgets. A total of 12 university libraries (representing 70.6%) responded. Telephonic interviews with the Deputy Vice-Chancellors, Directors or Deans of Research at selected universities were conducted to gather supplementary data as well as verifying some points that emanated from some of the responses to the questionnaire. Results were analysed in terms of frequency of responses and graphically displayed in the form of pie charts and tables. Interpretation of the results reveals South African university libraries, like most academic and research libraries world wide, have been adversely affected by the crisis in scholarly communication. On an annual basis university librarians are faced with hard choices in terms of deciding which journals to cancel. In terms of South Africa, open access initiatives are in the early stages of development and as university librarians have not embraced such initiatives, the benefits are not being realised. Thus university libraries in South Africa are dependent on paid-for journal subscriptions. Maintaining these subscriptions will be more and more difficult as a result of the high cost of such subscriptions and the fluctuating rand. To mitigate some of these difficulties experienced university librarians should make a concerted effort to facilitate access to local research by way of institutional repositories and free content available via open access initiatives. Recommendations for university libraries and librarians are made in light of the results of the survey and the literature review. These recommendations relate to the library budget, librarians knowledge of their library collections, librarians administering and maintaining institutional repositories and facilitating access to open access content.