The Weakening Dollar’s Effect on Canadian Academic Libraries

The current weakness of the Canadian Dollar has had a negative effect on many industries in Canada who have seen their purchasing power drop to zilch.

National Post -

One industry particularly effected by the Dollar’s drop are Academic Libraries. Canadian Academic Libraries spend the majority of their acquisition budget (millions of dollars ) to purchase products and resources from American based vendors and publishers every year.

This means that a mere one-cent drop in the Dollar can result in $100,000 or more drop in what libraries can buy with their budget.

This sudden decrease in their purchasing power, coinciding with the ongoing price increase of scholarly materials far above the inflation rate- otherwise known as the Serials Crisis- has put a lot of Canadian Academic Libraries in a really tight spot…..Especially since Libraries are often already committed contractually to pay for a large amount of their resources over the coming couple years.

We have already seen multiple academic libraries announcing that cuts  and rearrangements are coming to their collection and how they spend their budget.

After tweeting a series of links to these “Collection Cuts” announcements from individual academic libraries,I figured it might be worthwhile to collect them together in a more stable blog post.

Other libraries will announce their own cuts (or updates on what they are cutting) in the coming months and I’ll try to keep this blog post updated (John Dupuis style!) as announcements come in.

For some more information about the crisis check out this open letter from OCUL (Ontario Council of University Librarie)s from May 11, 2015.

For information about the past budgets and finances of Canadian University Libraries check out this Statistics report from CARL (Canadian Association of Research Libraries)

Please let me know if I missed anything or if I have misrepresented a Library.


Brock University Library:

On December 9th, 2015 Brock University’s James A. Gibson  Library announced a series of cuts, including (and most notably) a Big Deal package of 1,363 journals from Wiley-Blackwell.

The Library explains their Wiley cuts in a post on their website, including an explanation how the dollar drop effects their budget, a primer on Big Deals, and a rational why they chose cutting the Big Deal over others. They  also promote their ILL services as a solution for getting access. A January 26 2015 update states that they are preparing a prioritized list of “top” Wiley Blackwell journals for possible reinstatement.

The full list of cuts (and additions) for 2014/15 can be found here.

Some reactions to the Brock cuts:

A devastating cut to library holdings at Brock – Brock Bee Lab

John Dupuis has a ongoing list of updates of the reactions to Brock’s Cuts on his Confessions of A Science Librarian Blog with a great  post entitled “Why are librarians hesitant to CANCEL ALL THE JOURNALS?”. Probably my favourite piece from John. Worth checking out.

Ryerson University Library:

On February 13, 2015 Ryerson University Library & Archives announced in a blog post that they “we were confronted with an unforeseen challenge: the dollar totally tanked” and (combined with a Fozzie Bear GIF) go on to explain its substantial effect on their budget.  They don’t announce any cuts in this post, but link to some articles about the Big Deal for further reading. For now they are “watching and waiting”.

On April 7, 2015 Ryerson announced ‘dollar drop’ cuts to EBSCO’s aggregator databases Business Source Elite and Academic Search Primer. Adoption of a discovery service at Ryerson had also  reduced searches (-64% and -73%)in these databases substantially over the past few years.

Simon Fraser University Library: 

In February 2015 (?) SFU Library announces a Collection Cost Reduction in a post on their website. They give a detailed explanation of how purchasing power is decreasing as well as explaining the multiple responses they have undertaken to reduce the impact (Consortia membership, using Book wholesalers, and expertise in negation with vendors). They promote their ILL service (which fills 60% of journal article requests within 2 business days) as a solution for access. 6% of their budget ($500,000) must be cut to ensure a balanced collections budget for 2015/16.

In the above post they link to Task Group / Process which describes the principles and strategies guiding the decisions of what to cut. Reductions will be focused on serial resources instead of already depleted monograph budgets.

In July 2015 the full list of Cancellation decisions is posted. No Big Deals have been cancelled because the licenses are renewed much later in the year.SFU will know what their options are when a renewal offer for those deals are presented. The list of cancellations is diverse but mostly seems to contain databases and print journals.

Queens University Library:

In July 2015 (?), Queens’ Library announced that their acquisition budget had been reduced by $2 million for currency reasons alone. The library has undertaken a project to “review and reduce” acquisition costs. The full criteria used for evaluation has not yet been posted but should be up soon.

Memorial University Libraries:

Around July 2015 (?) Memorial University’s Queen Elizabeth II Library announced cost saving measures to their budget. The dollars drop has caused an 11% increase in the cost of their current subscriptions. Memorial will take a series of steps to cancel duplicated titles and little-used titles, as well as frequency reductions for certain reference works. Further cancellations are expected in the coming year.

Format duplication reductions

Frequency reductions

Cancelled Titles

Ottawa University Library:

On July 30th, 2015 uOttawa Library announced a cost reduction strategy. Citing the dollar drop and the journal inflation rate they note that they need to cut over a million dollars from their serials & databases this year. UOttawa has provided a one-time-only $500,000 temporary financial relief transfer to the library. They list the principles and criteria they will use for deciding on the cuts (Most detailed so far. Worth a read) and announce discontinuations of their New Professors’ Fund and their Open Access Author Fund (putting the money instead to “strategic memberships in open access initiatives”)

List of cancelled titles (Mostly serials and newspapers. A surprising number of magazines as well). Total savings of 900,000.

Western University Libraries:

On September 29th, 2015, Western Libraries announced that dollar drop will force them to “make some immediate decisions which will affect both book purchasing and a limited number of journal renewals” as well future cancellations in the coming fiscal years. They have current put a hold on all new journal purchases. Consultations for where the cuts can happen will begin this term (Fall 2015) and carry on into the winter term.



That’s all I can find right now. Please help me keep updated. Updates will be listed below.

Some quick notes on where these libraries are choosing to make their reductions:

  • Most of the cuts seem to be coming from serial purchases and not monographs.
  • A lot of print material (serials, magazines, and newspapers) also is getting cut.
  • Brock is the only one so far to cancel a large collection item (Their Wiley-Blackwell package). Though Ryerson’s EBSCO database cancellations probably saved them a fair amount


EDIT October 10th, 2015 – University of Montreal

University of Montreal cancelled their Big Deal with Wiley in January 2015. While the dollars drop was not referenced as one of the reasons for the cut, this is still an important cut to be recorded for the purposes of seeing how academic libraries fill the gaps left by such cuts.The English translation of the University’s Statement points out some interesting things about the cut:

  • The Library will ultimately lose access to 1142 out of 1510 titles they subscribe to from Wiley
  • After the cuts, the Library paid as much as McGill University Library for their Wiley Subscriptions in 2014 . Even though McGill subscribes to all 1510 titles and Montreal only now subscribes to 386! This is just because “McGill has subscribed to the Wiley Online Library longer”!
  • The Library maintained the subscriptions that made up 70% of the use in 2012 and cancelled their 3.00$ ILL fee in order to provide continued access.

The CRKN information page about the U of Montreal’s decision

Times Higher Ed. article about the cuts

EDIT October 10th, 2015 University of Guelph

On September 2015 University of Guelph Library announced two cancellations because of the “inflationary costs of scholarly information” and “currency fluctuations”. These two cancellations are the database Communication Abstracts (Cost: $7,786) and the journal article reader app Browzine (Cost: $10,000).  The reasons listed for the cancellation of the former are overlap with other resources, lack of full-text, and low usage. And for the latter they are low usage, high cost, other apps can preform a similar function.

Communication Abstracts cancellation:

Browzine Cancellation:

EDIT December 17, 2015.

I have stopped updating this page because every University Library in Canada has now begun cutting material. It would be impossible for me to keep up with all of it.


About Ryan Regier

Doing Library Stuff. Follow me on twitter at: @ryregier
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4 Responses to The Weakening Dollar’s Effect on Canadian Academic Libraries

  1. Steven says:

    I understand that poor/ no planning has put the libraries in this situation but 5-7 years ago the dollar was at the same exchange and the sky was not falling. There were Canadian academic distributors to cushion these sudden changes but with everyone discontinuing their contracts and moving to US distributors, it’s no surprised they all closed up shop. You reap what you sew.

    • Ryan Regier says:

      Thanks Miram! Sorry for my delayed reply, I just saw this now. I need to fiddle with my WordPress notifications I think.

      I am hesitant to add this one to my list, because while it is a substantial library cut, I can’t find anywhere where they reference the dollar’s drop as being one the reasons for the cut.

      It’s a tough call. The dollar had begun dropping around that time so it may have factored into the decision. I’ll add it with a clarification of it’s unique case.

      Thanks for pointing it out!

  2. Pingback: Let’s all get angry about the Serials Crisis again | A Way of Happening

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